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Myanmar is one of the countries in the world most heavily contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnances and has the 5th highest landmine casualty figure. Consequently, the Danish Refugee Council is planning to expand its current humanitarian intervention by providing Mine Risk Education in war-torn Kachin.
Communities in Kachin have recently experienced renewed outbreaks of violence leading to the displacement of 75,000 people. Landmine contamination further exacerbates the threats posed to people’s lives and livelihoods. According to the latest Landmine Monitor report, Myanmar is one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world and has the 5th highest landmine casualty figure. Consequently, Myanmar has been declared an Emergency Mine Risk Education priority.
A first step towards starting demining activities was taken in November, when DRC/DDG was invited by the Chief Minister of Kachin State to conduct a Mine Risk Education and Mine Action workshop to senior management of all 14 Kachin State Departments.
“Reaching key policy and governance administrators is paramount to address the threats posed to local communities by the extensive landmine contamination in Kachin,” says Jimmy Roodt, DDG Operations Manager.
The two-day workshop outlined an ambitious agenda to develop a Mine Risk Education plan for Kachin and to discuss a Mine Action Programme. DRC will present a final outcome report to the Ministry of Social Welfare in Naypyidaw and the Chief Minister of Kachin State. After the workshop Jimmy Roodt is optimistic about the outcome.
“Participants showed great enthusiasm throughout our discussions. The commitment to reducing the number of lives lost due to landmines and to creating a safer environment for local communities was very high,” he says.
For DRC and affected communities, Mine Risk Education has become a priority. With DDG’s technical expertise, MRE activities help adults and especially children living with the threat of landmines to become more aware and better educated about mine safe behavior. MRE gives people at risk information and tools to take care of their own safety and saves lives as a result. DRC is working on integrating MRE and eventually demining activities into its existing projects in Kachin. Current activities include shelter, NFI, protection monitoring and individual protection assistance in camps.
“While DRC is currently focused on providing urgently needed assistance to camp populations in Kachin, starting demining activities in Myanmar will be an important step towards securing durable solutions for IDPs and local communities and ultimately enabling IDPs to return to their homes,” says DRC Country Representative in Myanmar, Sabine Linzbichler.
DRC expects to gain official accreditation to commence mine action activities in Myanmar in the near future. Mine Risk Education operations are expected to begin in December 2012.