Somalia may take many years to clear land mines that were placed to fight against Al-Shabaab militants amid decades of insecurity.
As the world marked International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4, the UN in Somalia said the rising number of victims of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the country is a major challenge for a country trying to rebuild.
Last year, there were 669 casualties of IEDs and explosive remnants of war, up from 501 recorded in 2020. James Swan, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for Somalia said the organisation would continue to support freeing Somalia from explosive hazards.
“The United Nations in Somalia remains committed to working with the Somali authorities and partners on mine action, which enables peacebuilding, humanitarian and socio-economic development efforts while protecting civilians,” he said.
He added that the continued use of IEDs poses a serious threat to the country and its population.
“The contamination by and from explosive remnants of war and landmines resulting from years of conflict in Somalia continues to have detrimental effects on safety and human security, and hampers development efforts,” said Mr Swan.
The UN in Somalia works closely with national and international mine action specialists.
The support includes the provision of explosive ordnance risk reduction, the delivery of survey and clearance activities, victim assistance, stockpile destruction, and advocacy for adherence to the international legal instruments.
The theme of this year’s celebrations was “Safe Ground, Safe Steps, Safe Home”, emphasising the efforts made over the past decade to free Somalia from explosive hazards, from playground to pathway, from farmland to house.
In his message, the UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres notes that though over 55 million mines have been destroyed, more than 30 countries across the world declared mine-free, and casualties dramatically decreased; the world is still rife with millions of stockpiled landmines and over 50 countries remain contaminated with these abhorrent weapons.
“Mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices continue to kill or injure thousands of people every year – many of whom are children. We must do more to protect people living under the shadow of explosive ordnance, from Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan to Myanmar, Cambodia, and beyond,” Mr Guteres said in a statement.