Demining in South Sudan faces major obstacles due to a lack of resources, instabilities, and floods.
South Sudan’s Mine Action Authority (SSMA) has expressed concern over the continued existence of landmines put during the freedom battle.
Last Wednesday, officials from the SSMA and the UN mission’s mine action team visited a land mine detonation site in Gondokoro, near Juba, to observe the detonation of landmines.
Speaking to the media during the occasion, the chairwoman of SSMA, Jurkuch Barach Jurkuch, said that landmines remained a concern, namely in the Equatoria area.
“There are still land mine risks as a result of the 21-year conflict that lasted from 1983 to 2005,” Barach noted. “Landmines were laid in many regions across South Sudan, although the concentrate of the fighting was mostly in Equatoria.”
Barach said that demining activities had been hindered by a lack of resources, floods, and violence, but that over a billion square kilometers of mines had been removed throughout South Sudan, leaving an area of roughly 400 square kilometers to be cleaned.
“There is a shortage of resources, instability, and floods, which are impeding deminers’ job,” he said. “We have cleared almost one billion square kilometers of land throughout the nation as of today.” What’s left is a 400-square-kilometer region spread over the nation.”
For his part, Fran O’Grady, the UNMISS mine action program leader, said that children are the most susceptible to landmines in South Sudan and that suspicious items should be reported.
“If you notice anything questionable, don’t touch it and report it to the authorities so it can be removed,” O’Grady said. “When we look at the victims, we see a lot of young children because they play with stuff.” They crawl about, look at scrap metal, and examine items in the garbage pits. So, my message to the kids is, “If you see anything, don’t touch it.”
He said that accessibility issues have hampered their activities throughout the nation.
“Some of the difficulties in South Sudan are that when there is flooding, it is more difficult for us to tactically go to the place to remove the mines,” O’Grady said. “Access concerns arise from time to time, but we must ensure that the international community and national partners collaborate and work together.”
According to the SSMA, landmines are being cleared along important roadways, feeder roads, and agricultural area.
The majority of landmines in South Sudan are anti-personnel, anti-tank, and other unexploded ordnance.