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Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Kosovo: ICRC community-based mine/unexploded ordnance awareness programme

01-07-2000

 In response to the Kosovo crisis, a mine/UXO awareness information campaign was launched in the Macedonian and Albanian refugee camps in May 1999, and as the refugees began to return to Kosovo in June 1999, the ICRC launched a community-based mine/UXO awareness programme.  

In mid-1999, when villagers returned en masse to the homes they had fled only weeks before, a new danger awaited them: landmines and unexploded bombs and shells.

From its experience in other parts of the Balkans and elsewhere, the ICRC was familiar with the dangers the returnees were likely to face. It had already begun to inform people in the refugee camps of the risks of mines and unexploded ordnance and when ICRC teams returned to Kosovo in May, an all-out campaign was high on their list of priorities.

 Towards safer villages  

The ICRC's involvement has four aims: to make communities in high-risk areas fully aware of the dangers so that they can adapt their behaviour accordingly; to act as the lead agency in gathering comprehensive data on mine incidents; to help ensure rapid clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance; and to pass on information on humanitarian assistance needs to the relevant organizations.

Adopting a community-based approach, trained ICRC mine awareness officers visit seriously threatened villages and encourage communities to analyse the risks they face. The communities then appoint representatives to carry out mine awareness programmes locally.

Activities range from lectures to music and role playing. An open-air play – written, produced and performed by a professional theatre company from Pristina – was commissioned by the ICRC as the latest addition to the range of tools at its disposal for helping communities live safely with the threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance.

Data on mine/UXO casualties is collected both from civilian and KFOR (Kosovo Force) hospitals and directly from local communities in order to determine where the incidents occurred, who was injured or killed and in what circumstances.

ICRC mine awareness teams also help to speed up clearance by providing demining organizations with the information needed to prioritize the use of their resources.

Mine-affected communities often need other kinds of humanitarian assistance as well. In such cases the ICRC passes on the information it has gathered to organizations working in the relevant fields (reconstruction, water and sanitation, provision of food and shelter, medical assistance, agriculture, etc.).

A CD ROM, with mine awareness brochures and leaflets, was produced and distributed to 18 National Societies who needed information materials for Kosovar refugees returning home. In addition, mine awareness training was organized for Swiss, British and Finnish National Society staff members working in Kosovo. Returning staff members later organized mine awareness presentations for Kosovar refugees in Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

   

   

Mine awareness leaflet for children.

 Collecting information: the crucial step towards planning and implementation  

    

In June 1999, the ICRC, together with the Mine Advisory Group and UNICEF, undertook an assessment in the five regions of Kosovo, covering villages where incidents had occurred. Entire communities as well as specific groups such as teachers, children and the victims themselves were involved in the survey (see needs assessment report). This " bottom-up " approach has facilitated the development of appropriate information materials and curricula.

ICRC in Kosovo is the lead agency to collect data on mine/UXO casualties. Information on casualties is collected from both civilian and KFOR   (Kosovo Force) hospitals and directly from local communities in order to determine where the accidents occurred, who was injured/killed and under what circumstances. From June 1999 to June 2000, 472 casualties have been reported. The information on each casualty is passed on to the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) in Pristina which enters the data into a sophisticated database linked to a mapping system. Detailed and accurate charts showing the precise scale of the problem can then be produced. By analysing the resulting information, the ICRC can adapt its mine awareness programme to reflect real conditions in the field.

    

 Victim related statistics  

Victims by gender, extent of injuries and month

    

    

 Injured  

 Injured total  

 Killed  

 Killed Total  

 Grand Total  

 Month  

 Female  

 Male  

 Unknown  

 Female  

 Male  

 Unknown  

 June 1999  

6

83

9

98

0

33

5

38

136

 July 1999  

12

63

15

90

1

20

0

21

111

 August 1999  

2

31

5

38

1

7

3

11

49

 September 1999  

1

44

7

52

0

7

0

7

59

 October 1999  

0

19

0

19

0

7

0

7

26

 November 1999  

2

9

0

11

0

1

0

1

12

 December 1999  

0

5

0

5

0

4

0

4

9

 January 2000  

0

3

0

3

0

1

0

1

4

 February 2000  

0

7

0

7

0

1

0

1

8

 March 2000  

2

9

0

11

0

3

0

3

14

 April 2000  

3

19

0

22

0

0

0

0

22

 May 2000  

2

11

0

13

0

2

0

2

15

 June 2000  

0

5

0

5

0

0

2

2

7

 Grand Total  

30

308

36

374

2

86

10

98

472

Source: United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Monthly summaries 1 June 1999 to 30 June 2000.

 Note: A data cle aning process has been going on at IMSMA (Information Management System for Mine Action) since October 1999. The ICRC field staff have done extensive follow up on incomplete incident records handed in during the Emgergency Phase. Some figures in this issue might therefore be considerably different compared to earlier issues, however they are more accurate. The mine/UXO incident data depicted in this publication is a result to fan information process established under the lead of the ICRC. The data has been processed and analysed in a co-operation between the ICRC and MACC-IMSMA, with WHO serving as a advisor. The vast majority of the data comes from the ICRC field staff and KFOR, with mine action organisations also providing reports. Figures are based on verifiable data from 1 June 1999 to 30 June 2000.

 Victim: A person injured or killed by a landmine, UXO or bomblet. Only victims from accidents or incidents that occurred after 1 June 1999 are included in the statistics in this booklet.

 The community-based approach: mine action at the service of the affected communities...  

As of June 2000, thirteen staff members have implemented a community-based mine/UXO awareness programme in some 420 of the most seriously-threatened villages.

    

The community-based programme begins with a one-day visit to targeted villages. Information is gathered from the communities as to where the mine/UXO problems are, and how they affect the people's lives, both in their daily routines and their seasonal activities.

Based on a map drawn by the villagers, showing suspected and confirmed mine/UXO areas, discussions are held to develop a " Safer Village Plan " . The focus is on identifying risky behaviour and looking at alternatives.

The community is then divided into adults and children and mine awareness programmes are carried out with each of the groups according to the needs which have been identified through the discussions. The schools in each of the targeted villages are systematically visited and interactive activities (role play, games, songs) are carried out with the children.

 An open-air play – written, produced and acted by a professional theatre company from Pristina – was commissioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross as the latest addition to its "armoury" of tools designed to help communities live safely with the threat posed by mines and unexploded bombs and shells. The Mine Awareness Theatre performance, based on the "Little Red Riding Hood" story, relies heavily on music, audience participation and laughter. It is performed several times a week in affected villages across Kosovo and specifically targets 7 to 14-year-olds – the most vulnerable group. The first performances took place in early May 2000.  

During the visits, each community chooses a person to be trained as their mine awareness representative (i.e. a community-based mine awareness volunteer). The representative is responsible for developing and monitoring the Safer Village Plan and mine awareness activities geared to the specific needs of the village. Formal training courses for mine awareness volunteers began in February 2000. By May 2000, 150 community volunteers had been trained by the ICRC mine awareness officers. The visits will continue until all affected villages have been covered. It is an ongoing process with provision for monthly follow-up activities through the community volunteers and will continue for as long as the mine/UXO threat exists.

 ...and moving towards integration  

The mine awareness teams also help to speed up mine clearance by providing information that enables the professional organizations to prioritize the use of their resources. All clearance/marking requests from affected communities are passed on to UNMACC. And the Swiss Federation for Mine Clearance has made three Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams available to the ICRC from May 2000 to ensure a rapid response to urgent requests. With EOD teams working in close collaboration with the ICRC, the task of prioritizing areas for clearance is carried out BY THE MINE-AFFECTED COMMUNITIES THEMSELVES through the ICRC mine awareness teams.

Mine-affected communities often need other humanitarian assistance. For the Safer Village Plan to work, all organizations need to operate jointly for the benefit of the people. The information gathered by the ICRC has a direct bearing on the work of organizations implementing humanitarian projects such as reconstruction, water sanitation, food and shelter distribution, medical assistance, agricultural projects, etc. For example, the ICRC compiled a list of villages requiring wood so that people would not have to venture into mined forests. The list was forwarded to agencies engaged in wood distribution to assist them in prioritizing target village s.

 Tackling the threat of mines and unexploded bombs: Songs and laughter to put safety first  

The little girl in the front row sat spellbound, her eyes as wide as saucers, as the story unfolded – little Red Riding Hood was about to set out on her fateful walk through the forest. Just like other kids all over the world, she found the retelling of the familiar story for the umpteenth time as gripping as ever.

This time, however, the danger lurking among the trees was not so much the Big Bad Wolf as something far smaller and the danger being described was very real: landmines and unexploded bombs. Since refugees started returning to Kosovo last summer, more than 155 children under the age of 18 have been killed or maimed by this silent menace, and as the days lengthen and people work and play more outside, the danger is mounting once again.

The open-air play – written, produced and acted by a professional theatre company from Pristina – was commissioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross as the latest addition to its " armoury " of tools designed to help communities live safely with the threat posed by mines and unexploded bombs and shells. Relying heavily on music, audience participation and laughter, it will be performed several times a week in affected villages across Kosovo, specifically targeting 7to 14-year-olds – the most vulnerable group.

According to Nora Demiri, the ICRC officer overseeing the project, " after surviving the conflict and the hardships of refugee life, our people find it hard to realize that their lives continue to be threatened even after peace has returned. Children in par ticular are at risk because they are naturally curious and quite unaware of the terrible dangers posed by these shiny objects. "

The ICRC's mine awareness programme, now ten months old, has covered some 400 villages and is training local volunteers to work out solutions within local communities. The ICRC is also the lead agency for gathering data on incidents, which are passed on to the United Nations to make accurate maps showing where the danger is greatest.

And while the Red Cross is not involved in mine-clearing itself, it has made arrangements with a Swiss organization that has three teams available in Kosovo for emergency clearance in urgent cases.

According to Johan Sohlberg, the ICRC's mine awareness coordinator, " there is no quick fix for the problem of mines and unexploded ordnance. This is a problem the people here will have to live with for a long time. What we are trying to do is instil a safety reflex in people so that they can learn to live as normally as possible in the danger zone. "

  •  Going home? Your house, paths, garden or fields could be dangerous ! Stay in a place that you know is safe !  

The " going home " leaflet was produced to warn the Kosovar refugees on the dangers of mines/UXO. It was distributed to them in the the Macedonian, Albanian and Montenegro refugee camps just before they retruned to Kosovo.
 Download the "going home" leaflet : Albanian versionEnglish version.  
  •  Needs assessment for Kosovo conducted by the Kosovo Mine/UXO awareness eduction task force, August 1999  

 
Download the Needs assessment document  
  •  United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, Monthly Summaries, 1 June 1999 - 30 June 2000  

 
Download the UN Summarry report  

   

Ref.YU-N-00357-22

Gnjilane/Gjilan, Sojeva, primary school. Children of school receiving mine awareness training from ICRC officers.

 

   

Ref.YU-N-00353-30

Gnjilane/Gjilan, Sojeva, primary school.

Children of school receiving

mine awareness training from ICRC officers

   
 

   

Extract from a mine awareness brochure for children. Brochure written in Serb and Albanian.

   
 

   

Mine awareness leaflet for adults.

 

   

Ref.YU-N-00358-24a

Pristina, Breznica, primary school.

Children of school receiving mine awareness

training from ICRC officers.

ef. LG 2000-083-ENG