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 Relief News
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Making Southern Lebanon Safe Again for Returnees
Posted on: 8/31/2006 12:18:00 PM

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the UNHCR are cooperating to ensure the rapid identification  and clearance of unexploded ordinance (UXO) and making the local population aware of the dangers that exist in their midst.

 

“The conflict in Lebanon has resulted in an unprecedented unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination south of the Litani river and in areas in the north and east of the country,” said Christopher Clark, programme manager of the UNMAS’s Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) in Tyre, “thousands of cluster bombs and other explosives litter the area and these must be cleared, in cooperation with the Lebanese army, before the displaced can return in safety and reconstruction can commence.”

 

Since the 14th of August cessation of hostilities a total of 11 people have been killed and 50 injured – according to Lebanese army figures - most notably from cluster bombs. Many Lebanese who returned from displacement elsewhere in the country are presently living in or close to their destroyed homes with UXO lying around.

 

“At the end of any conflict, the safe and dignified return of displaced people to their homes always has our priority,” said Stephane Jaquemet, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, “In the Lebanon context, it immediately became clear however, that safe return can only happen when the threat of UXO and other explosives has disappeared. For our work it is crucial that roads, civilian areas and homes are safe and UNMACC can help in this.”

 

Since the end of the conflict, UNHCR has supported UNMACC with warehousing facilities for mine action implementing partners and five 4x4 trucks for rapid deployment of the mine action teams in southern Lebanon. On Wednesday UNHCR and UNMACC teams started working with children from the UXO affected surrounding villages, to warn them of the dangers of UXO.

 

UNHCR has also worked very closely with UNMACC’s community liaison officers (CLOs) who have over the past three years established a vast and trustworthy network in southern Lebanon. The CLOs have helped UNHCR in recent weeks to identify the most affected areas and ensure the immediate distribution of much needed humanitarian assistance sooner than would have otherwise been possible.

 

UNHCR and UNMAS have previously been working closely on other mine action projects, including in South Sudan. This is the first time the two agencies are cooperating on a rapid response to major UXO contamination during a humanitarian emergency.



 

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