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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Mountain crews learn mine avoidance

21-06-2001 News Release 01/24

   

 Certificate awarded to mountainers and scout leaders.  

 

" Mines everywhere! " was the message from Bosnia-Herzegovina's government-run Mine Action Centre during recent mine-awareness training for guides and rescue teams on Jahorina mountain above Sarajevo.

Co-financed by the ICRC, the five-day course had 25 participants, who at the end of their training, and a gruelling exam, received certificates. The newly-qualified instructors will now teach mine awareness to others in order to ensure that hikers and climbers are aware of the dangers and know how to avoid these deadly devices.

Mine-clearance is a slow process and an extremely costly one. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, clearing mountains and forests is a low priority because of the need to focus on more densely populated areas such as refugee-return sites, former front-line villages and farms. Only when those places have been made safe will work start on clearing some of the countryside.

This does not mean that the problem is being ignored, however. " Of course we are concerned”, said one participant. “Imagine the responsibility we bear as guides and mountaineers when we have a group of boys and girls 10 to 15 years old and we bring them to the peaks. Imagine what it would be like if those children stepped on mines. "

Jahorina, site of the women's ski slalom during the 1984 Winter Olympics, was on the front line during the war; its south face is heavily mined. " This was probably the best place to organize the training, " remarked Lejla Susic, the ICRC’s mine-awareness coordinator for Bosnia-Herzegovina. " The people in this group come here day-in day-out, guiding ramblers and mountaineers. "

The recent course is part of a broad programme of mine awareness that the ICRC is running with Red Cross branches throughout the country. It involves some 128 instructors and 19 local coordinators. Activities include mine-awareness presentations in schools, community-based work, gathering of data, liaison with local authorities, and media campaigns.