Libya: The threat from military weapons still hangs over civilians
London, 13th February 2012. The conflict in Libya may be over but civilians are still at risk. The country is littered with anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) used during the conflict. Three Handicap International mine clearance teams are currently on the ground in Tripoli and Sirte working to counter this deadly threat
After the fighting ends, the first thing people want to do is to return home, even though their neighbourhoods have been bombed and mined. As a result, many civilians unwittingly put themselves at risk.
Mine clearance teams
Over the past few weeks, three mine clearance teams from Handicap International have been clearing contaminated areas in various neighbourhoods of Tripoli and Sirte to protect people from the risk of explosions. In less than a month, more than 600 ERWs have been identified and will shortly be destroyed by the organisation.
“After the fighting ends, the first thing people want to do is to return home, even though their neighbourhoods have been bombed and mined. As a result, many civilians unwittingly put themselves at risk,” explains Frédéric Maio, manager of Handicap International’s programme in Libya. “Some of them are also tempted to recover metal or explosives from abandoned bombs. This extremely risky behaviour provides us with a daily reminder of the need to destroy these weapons and to ensure civilians understand the dangers they pose.”
Risk education on small arms
The opening of arms stockpiles by Gaddafi’s forces and the supply of weapons by various governments from the start of the conflict has led to the proliferation of an unknown quantity of small arms in Libya. The possession of these weapons by untrained civilians has given rise to a series of accidents. “For example, we need to avoid celebrations turning into tragedies because civilians are firing into the air and injuring the people around them,” explains Frédéric Maio.
Between October and November 2011, 400 people were killed in accidents involving small arms in Tripoli alone. Faced with this emergency, Handicap International has been organising prevention sessions to teach people basic safety precautions, including direct sessions for the group most severely affected these accidents - teenagers. It has also trained some 100 school teachers to pass on best practices to their students and parents. Over 16,000 leaflets have been distributed to vulnerable children and in several cities messages have been displayed on billboards in the neighbourhoods most acutely affected by this scourge.
Risk education on unexploded ordnance
Since the start of the fighting in March 2011, Handicap International has trained some 100 Libyan nationals to raise the awareness of people at risk from mines and other explosive remnants of war. This activity plays a vital role in preventing accidents. Handicap International’s teams and its local partners organise sessions in schools and businesses and for local authorities and organisations. The organisation also distributes leaflets and posters, educational games for children, and broadcasts information spots on national and local radio stations.
Please see our Situation Update on Libya at http://delivr.com/1du8r
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an international aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Working alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations in over 60 countries worldwide, we take action and raise awareness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Handicap International is a co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.