Four Takeaways from the Maputo Conference on a Mine-Free World

States, advocates and survivors came together in the Mozambican capitol of Maputo to review the progress of the Mine Ban Treaty after 15 years of implementation and agree upon an agenda for the next five years. From June 23rd to the 27th nearly one thousand delegates participated in formal sessions and dozens of side events celebrating the Treaty’s accomplishments and preparing for the next phase of work. (Round-ups of each day’s activities, as reported in social media, can be found here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.) While there were entirely too many moments of note to try and summarize, from the United States’s announcement that it will no longer procure anti-personnel landmines (3rd Review Conference) to the continued confirmations from the host country of its desire to be mine-free by the end of the year (3rd Review Conference), there were four items that particularly stood out for me despite only observing the Conference from a distance of more than 8,000 miles away. These items include challenges from deminers, a defense of the use of landmines, and the continuing challenge of survivor assistance.

“Doing the Math on Clearance Rates”
Co-founder of the HALO Trust and current president of HALO-USA, Guy Willoughby, addressed the Conference’s attendees on Day 3 (The HALO Trust). With over 25 years of experience in humanitarian demining and over 7,000 employees employed in 17 countries clearing landmines, Mr. Willoughby challenged the attendees to “aspire to making landmines history” and reminded states that they had agreed to a ten-year deadline to clear all landmines. The HALO Trust’s forecasting shows that with modest increases in donor funding, all landmines could be cleared from Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Cambodia, Colombia, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Zimbabwe by 2025. But, if mine action contributions decline, “Angola will take 28 more years to clear instead of ten… and Zimbabwe 48 more years.” Those delays would mean “thousands more human and livestock casualties, thousands of hectares left uncultivated.” The HALO Trust is widely respected within the mine action community and Mr. Willoughby’s intervention generated the momentum needed for the participants to agree upon 2025 as the goal for a landmine-free world.

“Persistent Failure”
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) presented a report during a side event on June 26th which assessed the scope of the landmine clearance challenge that remained. NPA listed 40 countries, 24 of whom are party to the Mine Ban Treaty and 16 which are not, that are fully capable of clearing all known minefields by 2019. However, NPA’s report stated that “the primary obstacle to effective and efficient clearance of mined areas is not funding per se, as is sometimes alleged, much less the weather or difficult terrain, but lack of political will to get the job done. In particular, when we look at the Article 5 waifs and strays, such as Chad, Senegal, Turkey, and the United Kingdom (discussed below), it is has been lack of political will that is the major cause of persistent failure to implement Article 5, not the availability or otherwise of adequate funding.” The report goes further to critique the United Nations’ role in mine action saying the UN’s focus on capacity building of mine action centers was “a strategic mistake” with “petty squabbles about ‘who gets the overhead’ between UNDP, UNMAS, and UNOPS.” A better role for the UN would have been “to focus on generating political will at the higher levels of government, creating an enabling environment for mine action.” A further critique of the UN agencies was the fact that they “never sought to gather basic mine action data about contamination, progress in clearance, and victims.” The data problems are evident as mine action operators and mine action centers “are unable to disaggregate land release into cancelation of mined areas by non-technical survey, release by technical survey, or release by clearance, or even to distinguish battle area clearance from mine clearance.”

NPA’s report then lists the criteria for an effective mine action program that is fully able to address any existing landmine contamination. In NPA’s assessment: “The best performing mine action program in 2013 among 30 affected States Parties was Algeria, followed by Mauritania and Cambodia. The most improved mine action program in 2013 was Zimbabwe. The least performing mine action program in 2013 was Chad, slightly below Turkey and then, equally, Ethiopia, Senegal, and South Sudan.”

I love, love, love both of these interventions. The HALO Trust and NPA have decades of on-the-ground experience in landmine clearance and have born witness to what countries are capable of when those countries have the political will to act. Guy Willoughby challenged the donor community to step up and commit the necessary resources to deliver a landmine-free world and NPA called out those countries who have been negligent in their obligations. NPA’s report reflects what I have heard many people say in private conversations and I’m so happy to see them come out and say it out loud. Long overdue. On the flip side, here are the two things that I did not like so much:

“Harmonizing Military Necessity with Humanitarian Concerns”
I do not envy the Indian and Chinese delegations at the Maputo Conference which participated as observers since neither country has signed or acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. The Indian delegation stated that the Mine Ban Treaty was unnecessary as “the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons provides the appropriate legal framework for harmonizing military necessity with humanitarian concerns” and defended the need for anti-personnel landmines as part of “the legitimate defence requirements of States, particularly those with long borders.” Despite its support for “a world free of the threat of landmines,” India’s “national security concerns oblige us currently to stay out of the Convention” (3rd Review Conference).

The Chinese delegation admitted to keeping “a very limited number” of anti-personnel landmines in its stockpile “for defence purpose.” These mines are compliant with the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons but absolutely banned by the Mine Ban Treaty. Also, in a challenge to the Mine Ban Treaty’s Article 5 which obligates States to clear known minefields within their territory, China advocated for “the principle of ‘user to clear’” to “accelerate the elimination of the landmine scourge.” The “user to clear” principle would relieve States of any obligation to protect their own citizens from landmines (3rd Review Conference).

By defending the use of landmines and reiterating their “legitimate” use, India and China continue to provide cover to states like Egypt, Morocco and Israel which remain outside the Mine Ban Treaty. As the Special Envoy for the Universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty said, the decision to ban landmines is not a military one, it is a humanitarian one. There is no balance between military utility and humanitarian costs when it comes to anti-personnel landmines; the humanitarian costs so far outweigh any possible military utility as to render the mines mere “weapons of cowards” as Pope Francis described them.

The “user to clear” principle is just wrong and let me offer two examples to show why.  1) In Zimbabwe there are over 1 million landmines that were laid by the Rhodesian government in the 1970s.  Rhodesia has not existed since 1980 so who would be responsible for clearing its landmines if “user to clear” were the rule?  2) In current conflicts, most landmine users are rebel groups, not governments.  Who would be responsible for clearing rebel-laid mines under “user to clear”?

“The Solemn Promise to Mine Victims”
In the Maputo Action Plan, the States Parties recommitted themselves to the “full, equal and effective participation of mine victims in society.” The Plan then goes on to say that each State Party with landmine victims “in areas under its jurisdiction or control… will do its utmost to assess the needs of mine victims… [and] will do its utmost to communicate to the States Parties… by April 30, 2015, time-bound and measurable objectives it seeks to achieve… that will contribute to the full, equal and effective participation of mine victims in society” (emphasis added) (Maputo Action Plan). Why, oh why, have States Parties not already conducted these needs assessments and why couldn’t States Parties come to Maputo prepared to discuss their objectives and activities to respond to these needs? Why will States Parties only do their “utmost” to meet these commitments? Why not have the commitments be binding? Because the commitments are not binding – a State can always say that it tried, but could not meet the deadline and still have fulfilled the obligation of the Action Plan – I am afraid that we are kicking the can down the road yet again. If we have made a “solemn promise to mine victims,” why can’t we keep it? How much longer will survivors trust the States when they make pledges that are not adhered to? The Maputo Action Plan says all of the right things, but in the end, there is nothing binding there on survivor assistance and we have once again let down this group that has led the charge for a mine-free world. I wish I was surprised and not just disappointed.

On the whole, the Conference was extremely positive, the Maputo Action Plan can be an aspirational document and hopefully the goal of a mine-free world in 2025 will be achieved. Let’s get to work.

Michael P. Moore
July 9, 2014
moe (at) landminesinafrica.org

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Profile of Egypt’s Executive Secretariat for the Demining and Development of the North West Coast

In 2006, the government of Egypt with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a multi-billion dollar initiative to develop the desert regions of the west of Egypt, along the Mediterranean.  The government’s plan would create 400,000 jobs and encourage more than a million Egyptians to move from the Nile River valley to the region.  At present, the area is undeveloped except for the resort town of Marsa Matruh and populated mostly by Bedouin tribes.  And landmines.  Millions and millions of landmines.

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The northwest coast of Egypt was the site of the tank battles of El Alamein from World War II between the German Afrika Corps under Rommel and the British Eighth Army under Montgomery.  The two armies laid so many landmines, estimated at 20 million, that the region came to be known as “the Devil’s Garden.”  The map on the right shows the main areas of landmine contamination, covering more than 200 miles of coastline: just west of Alexandria where El Alamein is; around Marsa Matruh; and near the border with Libya (additional minefields lie on the Libyan side of the border).  To address the landmine issue and make the region suitable for development, the government of Egypt created the Executive Secretariat for the Demining and Development of the North West Coast (Executive Secretariat).  Organized under the Ministry of International Cooperation in 2007, the Executive Secretariat is the coordination unit for the development project and is supported with national and international contributions.  The majority of funding derives from the Egyptian government, but in 2013 more than US $1.3 million came from UNDP and the governments of Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Great Britain.  In previous years, the European Commission, Japan, Norway and the United States also contributed to the Executive Secretariat.

The Executive Secretariat’s mission includes:

  • Coordination and monitoring the implementation of the development plan and related mine action activities;
  • The development of a communication strategy and resource mobilization strategy and coordination with donors, civil society and the private sector;
  • The conduct of demining activities based on clearly identified humanitarian and development needs; and
  • The conduct of mine risk education and victim assistance activities.

 

Demining

The Executive Secretariat serves as the mine action authority for Egypt and is responsible for coordinating landmine clearance activities.  Using a combination of technical and non-technical survey, the Executive Secretariat has been trying to determine the exact extent of the minefields in the country.  The estimates of 17 to 22 million landmines, representing more than 20% of the total landmines contaminating the globe, are based upon an extrapolation of clearance work conducted by the Egyptian army in the 1980s and 1990s; the true number may be higher or lower.  According to Fathy El-Shazly, the Executive Secretariat’s director, “the [landmine] contamination has been found to extend beyond the area suspected by the army. In some areas, such as Ras Hekma and Siwa, there are no mines indicated [on the Egyptian army’s maps], yet many accidents” have occurred in those places.  At the same time, landmine clearance work has been conducted by private companies seeking to exploit the oil and natural gas reserves along the coastline and their clearance work has not been integrated into national databases.

Clearance work has been ongoing since the creation of the Executive Secretariat with the pace of clearance increasing over time.  In 2010, 3 million landmines and over 9,000 acres of land were cleared and released for use; over a ten month period spanning 2012 and 2013, over 26,000 acres of land were cleared and released for use.  Another 200,000 acres of land remain to be cleared based upon requests from the ministries of agriculture, housing and environmental affairs.  The Executive Secretariat uses mechanical techniques for clearing and landmine clearance is complicated by the presence of a variety of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines and the nature of the soil.  The desert sands are subject to flooding and erosion which have moved the mines from regular formations expected in military-laid minefields and may have buried some mines more than 6 feet below the surface.

 

Mine Risk Education

The Executive Secretariat has published a five year strategy (2010 – 2015) for its mine risk education (MRE) programming.  Most landmine victims in Egypt are adult males due to their high exposure in contaminated areas through shepherding and farming; the strategy also recognized that children in the contaminated areas help out with shepherding after school, exposing them to risk as well.  The main implementation of the strategy has been through targeted support to four local organizations, including the survivors association, Association of Landmines Survivors for Economic Development – Marsa Matruh, and through school-based campaigns.  To dates, two MRE campaigns have been conducted; the first campaign educated 15,000 primary and secondary school students, the second campaign focused on secondary school and college students.  The second campaign built support within the government of the Matruh governorate which has since encouraged churches and mosques to inform their communities about the risks of landmines.  This outcome of the second campaign ties into the MRE strategy’s goal of reaching adult males directly, rather than indirectly through children.

 

Victim Assistance

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The total number of landmine victims in Egypt is estimated at over 8,000 and while the Executive Secretariat has documented 759 in the North West region, UNDP believes that only half of all landmine incidents are reported.  Of the known, documented survivors, 94% are males. In 2012, 41 people were killed by mines and 5 others injured; of the 46 casualties, all but one were civilians.

The Executive Secretariat maintains a database of landmine casualties and adds known survivors to that database when they are identified.  In 2013, the Executive Secretariat provided prosthetic devices to 241 survivors as well as micro-credit loans to 39 women, but these services are limited to the Matruh governorate.  In addition to the direct provision of services, the Executive Secretariat supports non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Protection, the Arab Doctors Union, the Association of Landmines Survivors for Economic Development, which target landmine survivors.  These NGOs provide income generation projects, peer assistance and advocacy opportunities for survivors.  The support from the Executive Secretariat takes the form of capacity building focusing on financial and project management to help the NGOs more efficiently and effectively provide services to their beneficiaries.  Within the micro-credit programs, all loans have been repaid on time and in full.

Outside of the Matruh governorate, survivor assistance services are run by the national government and consist of a small financial compensation and little or no rehabilitation and reintegration services.  Because many minefields are in restricted areas, survivors are loath to report their injuries as that would be tantamount to admitting they were trespassing or participating in illegal activities.  Many survivors also suffer from psychological issues due to loss of income potential, discrimination against persons with disabilities, and the pervasive feeling they are victims of a “war they were never party to.”

 

Looking Ahead

The Executive Secretariat’s plans for 2014 include the development of an epidemiologic information system that will report new landmine casualties as they occur.  Such a system will allow the Executive Secretariat and its partner NGOs to target survivor assistance services and determine the possible extent of landmine contamination.  The Executive Secretariat will also work to bring new partners into the mine action fold including private sector actors and the international community, especially the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).  Of course, the Executive Secretariat will also continue to provide mine risk education services as detailed in its strategy document and victim assistance services to survivors.

 

Michael P. Moore

June 20, 2014


Profile of Ethiopia’s Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization

Background

Founded by two landmine survivors, Mr. Bekele Gonfa and Mrs. Yemariamwerk Debela, the Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRaRO) seeks to provide peer support services to landmine survivors and other persons with limb loss and severe injuries.  As survivors, Mr. Gonfa and Mrs. Debela recognized the need to additional support beyond the standard medical and rehabilitative care available in Ethiopia.  They valued the peer support approach as a means of providing holistic recovery and reintegration support to survivors of severe and disabling injuries and in the absence of any other providers, created SRaRO which just became operational in April 2014.

 

SRaRO's Executive Director and Co-Founder, Bekele Gonfa, describes the work of the organization

SRaRO’s Executive Director and Co-Founder, Bekele Gonfa, describes the work of the organization

 

Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization builds upon the peer support modeled implemented by Landmine Survivors Network (LSN) in Ethiopia and LSN’s former Ethiopia country director, Mr. Gonfa, will serve as SRaRO’s founding Executive Director.  Mr. Gonfa is also a researcher for the Landmine Monitor and an advocate for humanitarian disarmament as an active campaigner and victim assistance focal point, most recently participating in the meetings to ban nuclear weapons in Mexico earlier this year. Mr. Gonfa also serves as the board chair for Ketar Developmental Association (KDA), the board vice chair for the Ethiopian Center for Disability Development (ECDD) and as a board member for Cheshire Service Ethiopia (CSE). With the connections and knowledge from LSN as well as the support and guidance of a five-person Board of Directors, SRaRO is launching an ambitious program in Addis Ababa and Oromia to enable survivors practically back to life.

Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization has applied for membership in the Ethiopian National Disability Action Network (ENDAN). SRaRO participates in relevant international coalitions including the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munitions Coalition (ICBL-CMC) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  Bekele Gonfa is an active campaigner for the ICBL-CMC and frequently represents the landmine survivor community on behalf of the ICBL-CMC. He has been serving as a technical advisor for a government of Norway-funded Survivors Network Project being implemented by Yitawekilin Yeakal Gudatagnoch Mehiber (YYGM, “Recognize our Disability”).

What is Peer Support?

Peer support is a simple and effective way to empower persons with disabilities and provide psychosocial support. SRaRO’s peer support program connects recent landmine victims and other persons with traumatic limb loss with survivors who have had time to reflect, convalesce and reintegrate themselves as productive, contributing members of society. Recent victims share their stories, have their emotions validated, receive practical advice and, through their interaction with fellow survivors, realize that successful recuperation is possible. The peer support approach is efficient and broadly applicable across the Ethiopian context.

Peer support is not limited to counseling. In practice, peer support starts with the identification of persons with disabilities and landmine survivors who are traumatized and live in isolation, followed by provision of peer counseling. The number of peer counseling sessions depends on the condition of the beneficiary; a person who is newly disabled may need three to six peer counseling sessions and a person who was disabled many years ago and lives in isolation need over 10 peer counseling sessions to regain his/her self-confidence.  If necessary, SRaRO will refer survivors to professional psychological centers for treatment.  Once a beneficiary has received peer counseling and realized that reintegration into society is possible, he/she will be referred to available educational, vocational, health, orthopedic services based on the needs and demands of that beneficiary.  Recipients of peer support who themselves demonstrate successful rehabilitation and reintegration may be recruited as peer supporters for other persons with limb loss.

 

Rationale of the Project

Survivors Corps (originally, Landmine Survivors Network) closed its landmine survivor assistance project in Ethiopia in 2009.  The project enhanced the recovery and rehabilitation of hundreds of Ethiopian landmine survivors and amputees, through the application of a peer support approach, during its decade of operation. By bridging the gap between survivors and service providing organizations in Ethiopia, Survivor Corps provided Ethiopian amputees with links and referrals to services that would have otherwise been under-utilized.  When the project closed, no other entity was able to meet the demands of the amputee population for access to service providers.

 

Ethiopia is one of the mine-affected countries in the world with significant numbers of landmine survivors as well as other persons with disabilities from all other causes, especially traffic accidents, who are badly in need of support for recovery and rehabilitation. Cancer and infection are other major disabling factors whose survivors need access to rehabilitation services. In order to reach out and address the needs of these survivors and enable them stand on their feet we have established an organization, SRaRO, which promotes the recovery and rehabilitation of this group. Hospitals may provide necessary medical treatment and professional counseling, but we have found the peer support approach, one survivor teaching another, to be most effective for trauma recovery.

 

Goal and Objectives

SRaRO’s goal is to empower survivors of disabling injuries to be self-sufficient citizens of Ethiopia.

Specific Objectives

  • To increase awareness of the psycho-social needs pf survivors of traumatic limb loss;
  • To improve the recovery and rehabilitation of survivors through application of the peer support approach;
  • Facilitate hospital and home visits by peer support workers;
  • To increase the awareness of service providers about national and international laws and policies related to disability; and
  • To increase the capacity of some service providers in order to serve more survivors.

 

Criteria for Target Selection

Research will be conducted to identify service providers for persons with traumatic limb loss including hospitals that conduct orthopedic surgery, prosthetic and orthotic centers, micro-finance institutions and vocational training centers. Our assessment will determine which service providers reach the greatest number of target beneficiaries and which are receptive to partnering with SRaRO.  Expansion of activities will be based upon the ability of service providers to reach underserved groups of survivors.

Area of Operation

SRaRO will start its operation in Addis Ababa City Administration (with hospitals and other service providers) and Oromia Regional State. We hope to expand to other regions based on needs assessments and availability of resources. We have chosen Addis Ababa and Oromia to start with because of the presence of large numbers of survivors in these two places as well as the presence of referral hospitals and other hospitals in Addis Ababa and the high traffic density in Addis Ababa and Oromia that results in high numbers of disabling road accidents.

What We Do

Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization (SRaRO) uses four basic approaches to promote rehabilitation:

 

1)      Recovery and Role Modeling: SRaRO employs peer support workers who have faced trauma, recovered and are living independently.  Peer support workers have “been through it” and serve as role models to others and the co-founder, Yemariamwerk Debela serves as SRaRO’s first peer support worker.  SRaRO’s executive director, Bekele Gonfa, also serves as a role model and can share his experiences and success whenever appropriate. Peer support workers visit hospitals with orthopedic surgical units and offer peer counseling to patients who have recently suffered trauma or are facing surgical amputation. Once contact is made with the survivor, the peer support worker will conduct home visits after the survivor is discharged. SRaRO provides peer support workers with the necessary training and tools to provide peer counseling and referrals to psychological services if needed.

2)      Physical Mobility and Accessibility: The peer support worker the survivors with information on rehabilitation service providers and the types of service they render. Armed with this knowledge, the survivors can move forward to receive the necessary physiotherapy services and appropriate rehabilitative appliances which, depending upon the nature of the survivor’s injuries, could include prostheses, orthotics, crutches, wheelchairs, brace, neck collars etc.  SRaRO raises awareness among the service providers and encourages them to supply these appliances for free to the survivors but also hopes to have the funding to cover some or all of the cost depending on the income of the survivors and availability of funds.

3)      Economic Independence: For survivors to be self-sufficient, they must be able to support themselves financially, either through wage labor or the proceeds from a micro or small business.  SRaRO provides survivors with information about vocational training opportunities, microfinance institutions, and employers who have expressed an interest in hiring SRaRO’s clients. If possible, SRaRO will subsidize training fees for clients at vocational training centers and will organize self-help groups of clients with an interest in establishing their own businesses.  These self-help groups double as credit circles and serve as an informal peer support mechanism.

4)      Enabling Environment: In addition to the direct services provided to survivors through the peer support approach, SRaRO will increase awareness within the community and among the relevant service providers to educate about national and international laws and policies such as Ethiopia’s Employment Opportunity Proclamation and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

Expected Outputs

If successful, SRaRO expects to see the following changes in the working areas:

  • The Clients (survivors) will recovery from the trauma and be ready to reintegrated with the society.
  • Awareness of service providers increased and they have started proving service to the survivors
  • Survivors will be rehabilitated physically, empowered economically and strive to be a self-supporting and independent citizen.

 

At the ceremony celebrating the establishment of SRaRO

At the ceremony celebrating the establishment of SRaRO

Immediate Needs

As with all start-ups, Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization is seeking donations.  Members of the organization are expected to contribute 2,000 Ethiopia Birr (roughly US $100).  SRaRO’s management and board are sourcing office equipment and materials from partners and the Charity and Society Agency.  Otherwise, SRaRO has started its operation with the labor and financial generosity of the founders and volunteers. Once funds are available, experienced staff will be hired to conduct the activities described above.

 

For more information, contact:

Bekele Gonfa Oba, Executive Director

Email: bekele818@gmail.com

Skype: Obabekele

 


The Future of Survivor Assistance, Again.

In just under five weeks governments, civil society and landmine survivors will gather in Maputo, Mozambique for the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty.  During the Conference, the attendees will review progress in landmine action since the last review conference in 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia and lay out the plan for the next five years.  In the third of four weekly posts, I discuss some of the issues I would like to see addressed in Maputo and beyond.

 

The survivor assistance obligation is one of the revolutionary elements of the Mine Ban Treaty and has set a global standard for inclusion of survivor assistance provisions in all succeeding disarmament treaties (the Cluster Munitions Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty and Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).  It is also the most complicated facet of mine action and the one that will endure long after the last mine is cleared from the ground.

In conversations with US government officials, I have heard what amounts to a “rising tide lifts all ships” argument about how development assistance focused on poverty alleviation and health sector reform addresses the needs of landmine survivors.  That is simply wrong.  Mozambique has had years of impressive GDP growth and made astonishing reductions in mortality and morbidity due to preventable causes, but landmine survivors will say that they have not benefited from those national-level improvements.  Measuring progress by GDP growth and mortality and morbidity rates misses out on the needs of the individuals and specific groups (I think it is important to note that many marginalized groups have been excluded from economic and health gains, witness China where hundreds of millions of people have been lifted into a “middle class” but millions remain desperately poor).  To address the needs of landmine survivors, especially in countries where landmine clearance is complete or nearly complete, programs need to target survivors and be outcome-driven.  Unfortunately, these facts have been known and recognized for many years. At the First Review Conference, 2004’s Nairobi Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties recognized that:

[Survivor assistance] does require that a certain priority be accorded to health and rehabilitation systems in areas where landmine victims are prevalent…

Assistance to landmine victims should be viewed as a part of a country’s overall public health and social services systems and human rights frameworks. However, within those general systems, deliberate care must be taken to ensure that landmine victims and other persons with disability receive the same opportunities in life — for health care, social services, a life-sustaining income, education and participation in the community — as every other sector of a society. Health and social services must be open to all sectors of society, including landmine victims and other persons with disabilities. (AP Mine Ban Convention).

And to ensure that survivors receive the assistance they need, “The States Parties have come to recognize the value and necessity of accurate and up-to-date date on the number of new landmine casualties, the total number of survivors and their specific needs, and the extent / lack of and quality of services that exist to address their needs in order to use limited resources most effectively.”

At the Second Review Conference to the Mine Ban Treaty, the 2009 Cartagena Summit for a Mine-Free World, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty agreed that,

Victim assistance should be integrated into broader national policies, plans and legal frameworks related to disability, health, education, employment, development and poverty reduction, while placing particular emphasis on ensuring that mine victims have access to specialised services when needed and can access on an equal basis services available to the wider population.

And pledged to:

Collect all necessary data, disaggregated by sex and age, in order to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate adequate national policies, plans and legal frameworks including by assessing the needs and priorities of mine victims and the availability and quality of relevant services, make such data available to all relevant stakeholders and ensure that such efforts contribute to national injury surveillance and other relevant data collection systems for use in programme planning (AP Mine Ban Convention).

In preparation for the Third Review Conference, Colombia’s Vice President hosted the “Bridges Between Worlds” conference in April 2014 to highlight the linkages between disability-inclusive development and survivor assistance.  In the Summary report from that conference (AP Mine Ban Convention), the Chairperson called for:

All humanitarian and development efforts, and assistance for these efforts, should be inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with disabilities, including mine and other explosive remnants of war survivors. This means a twin-track approach of integrating disability into development programmes, supporting disability-specific programmes to address targeted needs, and promoting and enabling the active participation and contributions by persons with disabilities in these efforts.

And in my report on victim assistance in Mozambique published last year, I wrote specifically about the data problems that face landmine survivor assistance programming and called on the participants of the Third Review Conference to leverage the “data revolution” proposed by the Post-2015 development agenda:

The delegates to the Review Conference can take the opportunity to describe how survivor assistance specifically and mine action more broadly will support [the Post-2015 development] framework and craft the Maputo Action Plan to align with the framework. An aligned action plan would focus on the outcomes of survivor assistance, namely the escape from poverty and inclusion in society, and the mine action community can assume a monitoring and advising role on the inputs necessary to achieve those outcomes. The sea-change will be the shift from focusing solely on those inputs however, and tracking the outcomes. The mine action community can, through existing and emerging monitoring systems, also track outcomes for survivors and persons with disabilities. In order to track those outcomes however, a comprehensive baseline is needed: who are the survivors and persons with disabilities and what is their current economic position? The mine action community has recognized the need for a comprehensive baseline and the data revolution proposed under the Post-2015 framework creates the opportunity to push states to develop that baseline.

So really when we talk about the future of victim assistance at the Third Review Conference, what we are doing is fulfilling the promise made a decade ago in Nairobi and re-affirmed five years ago in Cartagena: that survivor assistance is part of a broader development program with targeted interventions for landmine survivors and other persons with disability and that these interventions will be tracked with accurate data and monitoring systems. If in 2019 we are still talking about the twin-track interventions and the importance of data, we will have missed an important opportunity to fulfill the pledge made to survivors in 1997.  Again.  The States Parties in Maputo must act on survivor assistance and not merely re-hash past pledges which have already been re-hashed.

Michael P. Moore

May 20, 2014


Profile of Sudan’s JASMAR Human Security Organization

With nearly a decade and a half of experience, JASMAR Human Security Organization (previously the Sudanese Association for Combating Landmines) has a broad mandate to address Sudan’s extensive landmine contamination.  Even with the partition into Sudan and South Sudan, Sudan is one of the most mine-affected countries in Africa with contamination concentrated in the eastern states of the country.  JASMAR (the Arabic acronym for “Sudanese Association for Combatting Landmines) was founded in November 2001 and currently employs 55 people.  With origins in advocacy and landmine survivor assistance, JASMAR has recently been accredited, along with the Friends of Peace and Development Organization, as the only national organizations capable of demining.  JASMAR joins international operator the Development Initiative (TDI) and Sudanese government units, the National Demining Units (NDU), in landmine clearance.  JASMAR has been assigned clearance tasks in Kassala state for the near term and is expected to assist in the landmine clearance of South Kordofan state once the security situation allows.

 

JASMAR Demining Team

JASMAR has a long experience with demining and mine risk education (MRE) having served as a national partner to both Danish Church Aid (DCA) and Mines Advisory Group (MAG). JASMAR was one of the first Sudanese organizations, along with Operation Save Innocent Lives (OSIL), to participate in demining having been present at DCA’s cross-border demining training in 2002.  With MAG, the collaboration was two-way with MAG providing expertise in manual and mechanical clearance and JASMAR providing expertise in delivery of mine risk education as well as personnel for the manual demining teams.

According to the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (see below), JASMAR provides mine risk education in Red Sea, Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where its 10 MRE teams have reached over 200,000 beneficiaries between 2012 and 2013.  Plans are in place to add MRE teams in South, West, Central and Eastern Darfur states in the near future.  JASMAR’s manual demining team has cleared over 379,000 square meters of land in just 8 months in 2013 in eastern Sudan with support from the United Nations Mine Action Services.

In addition to its mine risk education and landmine clearance activities, JASMAR is a survivor assistance provider.  JASMAR’s current executive director, Sami Ibrahim, said “The principal problem for [landmine] victims is the social gap and so it is important to develop socio-economic projects for them.”  In the run-up to the second review conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in 2009, JASMAR conducted a nationwide survey of landmine survivors to determine their needs and priorities.  This survey work was informed by advocacy work carried out by JASMAR in Blue Nile state and socio-economic reintegration efforts in Kassala state (JASMAR).

Outside of mine action, JASMAR’s projects include water, sanitation and hygiene programs and work with women and vulnerable children.  JASMAR has ongoing interventions in HIV/AIDS, Gender-Based Violence and community-based health care. From time to time, JASMAR has been called upon by its international partners to assist in emergency relief programs as in August 2013 when United Nations agencies provided emergency funding to JASMAR to respond to severe flooding in the Omdurman area of Khartoum.  In 2012, JASMAR’s work in security sector reform lead to the provision of reintegration support, including economic development activities like agricultural credits and small business start-ups, for thousands of demobilized soldiers in South Kordofan state.

Going forward, JASMAR has recommitted itself to mine action as a component of its human security portfolio, pledging “to continue addressing personal human security programs such as MA [Mine Action], mainstreaming of HIV/AIDs, gender and environment into its Mine Action programs, DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration], SALW [Small and Light Weapons] control, CCM [Convention on Cluster Munitions] and works towards alleviating poverty and preventing HIV/AIDS spread.”  A complicating factor in mine action in Sudan is the fact that “The number of victims is underestimated in Sudan, due to the lack of accuracy in the collection of data. There are incidents that are never reported.” (Deutche Welle). Also, the continuing insecurity in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states prevents landmine and UXO clearance there while also increasing the risk and contamination from explosive remnants of war.

 

Thanks to Hytham Malik, JASMAR’s Humanitarian Mine Action project Manager, for his contributions to this piece.

For more information about JASMAR, please visit their website at http://www.jasmar.net/

 

Michael P. Moore

May 7, 2014

 


Profile of Mozambique’s Rede para Assistência às Vítimas de Minas (RAVIM)

One of the key contributors to planning and implementation of the Third Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty taking place this June in Maputo, Mozambique will be Mozambique’s landmine survivor community.  One of the representatives of that population is RAVIM.  Founded in 2005 by two landmine survivors, Rede para Assistência às Vítimas de Minas (RAVIM, the Assistance Network for Landmine Victims) is the only Mozambican organization dedicated to providing support and comfort to Mozambique’s landmine survivors.  With forty members and a permanent staff of five, RAVIM conducts outreach to identify and register landmine survivors with the goal of linking survivors to basic and specialized health services.  RAVIM has also provided some material support to survivors through grants from donors and educates Mozambicans on landmine risk and HIV / AIDS among persons with disabilities.  Since 2007, RAVIM has worked closely with Handicap International to conduct assessment of the disability sector and landmine survivor assistance needs.

In 2004, the First Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty was held in Nairobi, Kenya and Luis Silvestre Wamusse and Manuel Alberto Chauque, attended the conference under the Raising the Voices program hosted by Landmine Survivors Network (LSN).  Raising the Voices trained survivors to be advocates for the Mine Ban Treaty, especially the provision of survivor assistance.  Upon their return from Nairobi, Wamusse and Chauque, and other Mozambican landmine survivors, began working to create the core of what would become RAVIM to respond to the incredible need in Mozambique for survivor assistance.

Luis Wamusse (on left), Director of RAVIM at 13MSP in Geneva, 2013.  Photo by Giovanni Diffidentii

Luis Wamusse (on left), Director of RAVIM at 13MSP in Geneva, 2013.
Photo by Giovanni Diffidenti

Landmines have been the third leading cause of amputation in Mozambique, trailing only diabetes and road accidents, and for many people rehabilitation and reintegration services are unavailable.  RAVIM has found “victims who stepped on a mine fifteen to twenty years ago and have never been able to get to a hospital.”  While the government of Mozambique has a national disability policy that would include landmine survivors (it’s actually had two), no funds have been allocated to implement the plan.

In March 2007, a munitions depot in Mozambique’s capitol, Maputo, erupted killing 100 people and injuring 500 more. Shortly after the blasts, which lasted for four hours, RAVIM mobilized.  The members went to the hospitals where people were being treated for injuries, many of which resulted in traumatic or surgical amputations. RAVIM’s members had been trained in peer counseling and support and demonstrated that there was life and opportunity after the loss of a limb.  Wamusse said, “People did not believe that we were also victims and had had limbs amputated, so we had to take off our prosthetics in the hospital and show them that we have adapted to live a normal life … I told them, ‘You lost your leg, you did not lose your life, so please do not lose your will to live’.”

RAVIM’s objectives are:

  • The reintegration of victims of mines or UXO in society within the context of the full implementation of the Ottawa Treaty ;
  • The protection and promotion of rights of persons with disabilities; and
  • Fighting poverty in this vulnerable section of society.

RAVIM strives to have an accurate evidence-base for its efforts so much of the work of the members has consisted of assessing Mozambique’s landmine survivor population.  With more than 2,000 documented casualties in the country, RAVIM has registered over 900 individual survivors identifying where they are and what their needs are.

For individuals, RAVIM has provided wheelchairs and other mobility devices to survivors; for youth survivors, RAVIM has provided scholarships for students to complete their education.  With funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), RAVIM and Handicap International conducted a survey on the living conditions and needs of landmine survivors in Inhambane and Sofala provinces.  Funding is being sought to address the issues and needs identified in the survey.  Most recently, RAVIM received funding from the Norwegian government’s Survivor Networks initiative, managed by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). RAVIM’s Survivor Network project focuses on Gaza province and will assess the needs of survivors there and provide referrals and direct assistance to survivors.  In addition to its service provision, RAVIM participates as an advocate for survivors and persons with disabilities in negotiations for the unfunded national disability policy and Wamusse frequently attends international meetings related to landmines to advocate on behalf of all survivors.

Photo via ICBL

Photo via ICBL

Unfortunately, RAVIM’s financial situation is precarious despite the economic gains of Mozambique.  To save costs, RAVIM shares office space with ADEMO, a school for the blind.  With the support and partnership of Handicap International, RAVIM has been able to conduct assessments of landmine survivors to try and determine their population and needs, but RAVIM does not have the funding to provide rehabilitation services and is instead reliant on referrals to other service providers.  Even those referrals may be inadequate since many government-run rehabilitation and prosthetic centers lack the supplies needed for production.

Michael P. Moore

March 3, 2014

 

Many thanks to Luis Wamusse for his help in putting together this profile.  Luis can be reached via email (in Portuguese) at lwamusse.ravim@gmail.com


Profile of Association Sénégalaise des Victimes de Mines

ASVM logo

The Association Sénégalaise des Victimes de Mines (ASVM) was founded in 1999 by a group of landmine survivors and has grown to over 400 members, nearly half of all the landmine survivors in Senegal.  With official status since 2001, ASVM works on behalf of landmine survivors to assist in the rehabilitation and inclusion of survivors, fight against the threat of landmines, encourage the clearance of landmines from the Casamance region of Senegal and educate the people of the Casamance about the risks posed by landmines.  Through partnerships with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Geneva Call, CICR, UNICEF, Handicap International (HI) and the Centre National d’Actions Antimines au Sénégal (CNAMS, Senegal’s mine action authority), ASVM has been remarkably effective in meeting its mandate, despite financial barriers.

“It is not about just giving handouts to mine victims”

Starting with the Mine Ban Treaty and the obligation of states to provide assistance to landmine survivors, ASVM works to identify the capacity of individual survivors and provide them with the means to support themselves.  With funding from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), ASVM worked with a Mr. Ba who lost his leg to a landmine while he was farming near the border with Guinea-Bissau.  In interviews, ASVM staff learned that Mr. Ba was a trained bicycle mechanic and so ASVM provided Mr. Ba with the start up capital to open a bicycle repair business which he uses to support himself and his three children.

From Seckou Keita, Mr. Ba's bicycle repair shop.

From Seckou Keita, Mr. Ba’s bicycle repair shop.

For Martine Niafouna, employment at the Club Med in Cap Skirring beckoned until she too lost a leg to a landmine while collecting firewood.  The injury halted her hospitality career, but with ASVM’s support, Martine has established herself as a small businesswoman with a vegetable stall.

From Seckou Keita, Martine's market stall.

From Seckou Keita, Martine’s market stall.

The founders of ASVM, Mamady Gassana, Sarani Diatta and M. Bacary Diedhiou, are all landmine survivors themselves and by their own lives demonstrate the principle of self-sufficiency.  For example, Gassama completed his university studies and now works as a financial and administrative officer  for Norwegian People’s Aid and founded a marketing company to promote the products of persons with disability (Scoops of Ziguinchor).   For other survivors, ASVM has advocated for making “30 hectares of land south of Casamance’s main city Ziguinchor available to mine victims as well as to local residents, for market gardening, livestock farming and other agricultural work” (IRIN News).

As an advocacy organization, ASVM also promotes sports for persons with disabilities as a means of demonstrating the abilities of survivors and to raise awareness about international treaties like the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  ASVM organized a regional basketball tournament bringing together survivors from the Casamance region, the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau in December 2012.  The tournament helped encourage the government of Guinea-Bissau to sign the CRPD.  Other sports events hosted by ASVM have sought to build peace among Casamancais communities through football and mine risk education.  These activities were part of the Survivor Network Project supported by the ICBL which also provided socio-economic support to survivors and also support by UNICEF (Scoops of Ziguinchor; Scoops of Ziguinchor).

In addition to economic assistance, ASVM runs a referral program for survivors to help them find and obtain rehabilitation services from prosthetics to mental health care.  ASVM also provides mine risk education programs for persons in the Casamance, using the members’ own experience to highlight the risks to the population.  ASVM members go to schools and local communities to conduct mine risk education sessions, sometimes at night to ensure greater participation.  ASVM has also collaborated with Handicap International and UNICEF to produce a DVD on mine risk education.

A DVD of mine risk education produced by ASVM, HI and UNICEF.

A DVD of mine risk education produced by ASVM, HI and UNICEF.

From ASVM, a member delivers mine risk education messages to a community at night.

From ASVM, a member delivers mine risk education messages to a community at night.

From ASVM, a member provides mine risk education to a classroom.

From ASVM, a member provides mine risk education to a classroom.

From IRIN News, a landmine warning sign in the Casamance.

From IRIN News, a landmine warning sign in the Casamance.

Future work

“We must realize that sometimes the people in power don’t have the level of engagement that we would like to see. In some countries, for example Senegal, it is very easy for them to sign the Treaty but the implementation is more difficult.” Mamady Gassama (Mines Action Canada).

The Association Sénégalaise des Victimes de Mines will focus its advocacy efforts on the differential treatment civilian landmine survivors face in Senegal relative to military survivors.  Soldiers when they are injured by landmines are provided with preferential medical treatment and a government pension; civilian victims are forced to rely on local health care facilities and receive no compensation.  This is discriminatory and as a party to the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Senegal has pledged not to allow such discriminatory policies.  ASVM will be publicizing this situation to the international community with the hopes of getting Senegal to change its policies so as to be equitable for civilians and soldiers (M. Gassama, personal communication).

In addition to advocacy, ASVM has grand plans to reduce the threat of landmines through mine risk education, to provide education to all in the Casamance by building a school upon land recently cleared of mines and to promote social reintegration and psycho-social support for survivors.  These plans require external support from international organizations and the donor community.  To help a survivor establish a small business like Mr. Ba’s bicycle repair shop can cost as much as US $2,000, but the return on the investment benefits not just the survivor and his or her family, but the entire community.  To fully develop a cleared minefield can cost upwards of US $300,000 depending upon the usage of the land, but such development would vastly improve the economy of the neighboring village and its inhabitants.  ASVM has suffered from irregular financing for its programs which threaten their implementation.  ASVM’s mine risk education work is especially important as the demining progress in Senegal has been very slow and subject to numerous delays, bureaucratic and security-related.  While mines remain in the ground, mine risk education remains the most important means to warn people of the threat.  Additional partners and donors are needed for ASVM to be able to meet this need.

ASVM’s contact information is as follows:

Association Sénégalaise Des Victimes de Mines (ASVM)

Post Office Box 1350

Ziguinchor, Senegal

Tel : 77 520 85 55  or 77 520 64 90

Email : asvm_sn@yahoo.fr

Videos featuring ASVM Members:

From Handicap International, mine risk education and ASVM (2’37”)

From Handicap International, the importance of mine risk education (12’21”)

Survivor Stories, by Amanda Brinegar (8’29”)