After more than a decade of civil conflict in Syria, the widespread explosive ordnance contamination continues to threaten lives, hamper access to basic services, and obstruct the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the efforts of the international community toward building resilience and early recovery.
Records indicate that since 2013, an average of 4 people per day have been killed or injured by explosive ordnance, and, according to the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 1 in 2 Syrians are estimated to be living in areas containing some form of explosive ordnance contamination. The need for sustained and comprehensive explosive ordnance mitigation measures and the integration of humanitarian mine action across the humanitarian response and early recovery programming, is paramount.
In addition, as indicated within the UN’s Syria Humanitarian Fund 2022 allocation strategy, there is an urgent need to carry out technical and non-technical survey to ascertain the presence or absence of explosive ordnance contamination and support the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, safe access to services and livelihoods opportunities and foster resilience of community members.
Since July 2021, with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) initiated the establishment of a Mine Action and Disarmament (MAD) programme in government-controlled Syria. NPA successfully completed this initial phase in December 2021 with the signature of the MoU with the SMOFAE.
In January 2022, NPA commenced the operational phase which includes assessment, planning, training, and implementation of the humanitarian mine action intervention. NPA is currently training its gender balanced operational capacity, a capacity that is expected to deploy to the field by November 2022. NPA will primarily focus our activities on survey (technical and non-technical) of potentially hazardous areas and clearance in government-controlled areas of Syria under the current UN-led “Whole of Syria” approach.
A strictly humanitarian approach
in Syria is paramount for NPA’s ability to retain status as an impartial humanitarian actor, obtain acceptance in local communities, and ensure NPA’s staff safety. Therefore, NPA’s intervention is guided by humanitarian needs based on relevant contamination and impact data. In addition, given the complexity of the context, NPA operates under a sound and comprehensive conflict sensitivity framework and a robust risk management system which not only considers safety and security aspects but also financial, legal and compliance issues related to sanctions and anti-terrorism measures.
NPA expects to be fully operational with two multi-skilled teams and three non-technical Survey teams by November 2022, conducting land release through non-technical survey, technical survey, mine clearance, Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) tasks. The mentioned capacity will, during the first quarter of 2023, increase with an additional two multi-skilled teams and one non-technical survey team, funded by UN’s Syria Humanitarian Fund.