ICRC community-based mine/unexploded ordnance awareness programme
A - The mine problem in Central Asia
B - The mine/UXO risk education programme in Tajikistan
C - Plans for 2002
Concerned with the increasing number of mine accidents occurring on the Uzbek-Tajik border, the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan (RCST) requested a support from the ICRC in September 2000 in establishing first aid training and mine awareness activities on the border districts. In 2001, following a joint ICRC/RCST needs assessment, a training course was conducted and mine awareness activities were started in the affected areas.
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are all three classified as mine-affected countries.
Tajikistan has a mine problem in t wo different regions requiring two different mine/UXO risk education programmes. Each programme must take into account the knowledge which affected communities have of mines, the use made of this knowledge and the seasonal activities carried out in the region.
There is little information available on the extent of the mine problem in Uzbekistan. On the basis of discussions with local communities, it is believed that mine accidents have occurred in the border areas with Tajikistan. Uzbek border guards have been among those involved.
In Kyrgyzstan accidents have occurred in isolated pockets. The government has set up a commission to gather information and to clear and mark mined areas.
1 - The threat
Minefields were laid in Tajikistan during the 1992-97 civil war. However, the more recently laid minefields around the Uzbek-Tajik border are of greater concern to the authorities and the civilian population as they pose a direct threat to people living in the area, where land is used for grazing livestock, hunting and collecting wood, and to people travelling through on their way to visit relatives on the other side of the border.
Minefields from the civil war
The minefields laid during the civil war are situated in less populated areas, predominantly mountain passes. However, mine accidents causing both deaths and injuries are known to have occurred.
Since August 2000 land mines, predominantly trip-wire initiated, have been become part of the landscape of the Tajik-Uzbek border.
Type of mines
The mines laid in the border areas are mainly tripwire-initiated OZM 72 and POM Z fragmentation anti-personnel landmines. According to press reports, Italian mines produced in 1948 were also found in a minefield in Shakristan District (Soughd Oblast).
The first mine accident occurred in August 2000, in the Isfara region. So far, seven people have been killed and 19 injured in landmine accidents in this region, all of them civilians going about their daily activities.
In general, those at greatest risk are shepherds, hunters and people gathering firewood, adult males for the most part although firewood is also collected by women. Children have been involved in accidents while clearing mines by themselves or in the company of adults. In each of the reported accidents those involved had been unaware that the area to which they were going was mined. The children knew that there could be a danger to themselves bu t did not understand exactly what it was.
Few mined areas are marked. Those that are were only marked after accidents occurred.
2 - Collecting information
The how, what and wherefore of collecting data was discussed at the national, regional and community levels in order to obtain a more comprehensive overview of the system in place and how it could be expanded and improved.
- At present no national data gathering network exists. Mine accident information is collected by several ministries and committees and by the RCST itself. Overall responsibility lies with the MESCD.
- The information gathered from different sources does not agree, making it impossible to ascertain the exact number of mine accidents.
- No updated information exists on the number of killed and wounded on the Tajik-Uzbek border.
- In central Tajikistan, where minefields were laid during the 1992-97 civil war, information is still being gathered. The ICRC took the initiative in this area, using the data collection form from Azerbaijan. It would seem that there is a " small " mine problem which does not put the civilian population at risk. Accidents continue to occur, however: in early November 2001, a 14-year old boy was injured while grazing livestock.
Mine accident information gathered from hospitals in Garm
1997 to 2001: 15 mine accidents (2 boys and 1 girl under 5 killed, 3 boys injured and 9 men killed while fetching water or collecting firewood).
1997 to 2001: 2 mine accidents (1 adult male killed and 1 boy inju red while herding).
Hoyd (accidents involving UXO)
1997 to 2001: 2 mine accidents (2 boys killed while playing with UXO).
Central Regional Hospital (Garm)
1994 to 2001: 17 mine accidents (2 boys under 5 and 10 adult males killed while collecting firewood, gathering hay, fetching water or herding).
3 - Planning the programme
In response to the accidents, mine/UXO risk education activities were initiated by the local administration (hukhomat), supported by the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan (RCST), the Tajik border guards and the Ministry of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence (MESCD). These activities have taken the form of community meetings, with clear instructions being given to avoid the border areas. Mine information seminars have been held in schools and the local media network has been used to provide information for the public at large.
Following a needs assessment conducted by the ICRC, the RCST and the MESCD, a mine/UXO risk education strategy was developed by the RCST with input from the community and the relevant authorities. Additional support was given by the ICRC through a series of discussions focusing on the following subjects:
* understanding the programme cycle
* planning mine/UXO risk education activities and developing appropriate materials
* the community-based approach
* the role of information within mine/UXO risk education programmes
* coordination and cooperation: why, how and with whom?
During a discussion between the ICRC and the RCST, the following target groups were identified:
- affected communities living with the danger of mines (group at greatest risk)
- people travelling through mined areas
- the border guards (group at risk and channel of information)
- the MESCD (responsible for mine action and channel of information)
- local administrations (hukhomats) (channel of information)
- the local media (channel of information)
A community-based approach was taken when planning mine/UXO risk education activities. All activities start and finish in the community: information on the mine problem is gathered from the community, analysed and then returned to the community by various means.
The mine/UXO risk education programme is being implemented through the RCST volunteer network with help from the MESCD and the border guards, who organize community meetings and give presentations.
The role of the media is still to be determined and an appropriate strategy developed with the parties concerned (the community, the RCST, local and national media, the relevant ministries and other actors).
The involvement of the MESCD in the mine problem is still to be clarified, along with its responsibilities and the areas in which the ICRC and the RCST can assist it in planning and expanding mine activities.
Type of activities and materials developed
During the first stage of the programme, ideas were collected from the community to determine how activities should be carried out and support materials should be used. Materials were prepared as a means of raising awareness and as teaching aids for community activities.
Teaching aids were developed, field tested, pro duced and distributed in accordance with the programme cycle.
Two posters (one for adults and one for children) were produced for the mine-UXO risk education programme. During the needs assessment, information was collected to find out how people were put at risk. Sketches illustrating the most dangerous activities (gathering wood and grazing livestock) were subsequently prepared for the two posters, field-tested (discussed with the communities) and redesigned, after which 1,000 copies of each poster were printed and distributed by the RCST through their volunteer network. Guidelines were drawn up so that additional information could be added to the posters when they were being distributed. The main distributors have been the Jamoat, village authorities, schools, border guards and MESCD representatives in regions and districts.
Mine/UXO risk education activities were designed and field-tested as part of the community-based training given in January 2002.
The messages on the posters - Be aware of mines ! Don't touch ! - are in both Tajik and Uzbek language.
4 - Cooperation with other actors
UNICEF carried out an assessment of the mine/UXO threat in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in July 2001 and it is planning to start activities in 2002. These activities will be coordinated with the ICRC, the RCST and the MESCD so as to ensure complementarity and avoid any duplication of efforts.
The MESCD has a ppointed a liaison officer to serve as a focal point for mine/UXO risk education activities and data collecting. The RCST's agreement with the MESCD regarding disaster preparedness is to be extended to include cooperation and coordination in these areas as well.
The border guards have initiated mine information activities in places where accidents have occurred. They have requested that materials be provided for them and activities shared with them so that they can continue to inform people of the mine danger. They have been involved in mine accidents and are aware that they have a key role to play in marking mined areas.
Assistance for mine victims
On the basis of its agreement with the RCST and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the ICRC is supporting a centre that produces lower limb prostheses. Within the framework of the project it is responsible for training, monitoring and providing components. Ten percent of those who have been fitted with prostheses are mine victims.
The limb-fitting centre is located in Dushanbe, with satellites in Khojend in the north (Soughd Oblast), Kulyab in the centre and Khorog in the south. The RCST link with those in need of prostheses and arrange for them to visit the centre. To date all those injured in mine accidents have received or are awaiting their protheses.
Set up an information gathering and reporting unit within the MESCD. Information to be gathered at the community and regional levels and collated and analysed at the national level.
Set up a mine action working group for the coordination of mine-related activities.
Implement community-based activities through the RCST volunteer network and coordinate them with the MESCD and the border guards:
1. Gather information to determine how various groups are put at risk by mines
2. Provide mine information and advice for the community
3. Devise a safer village plan focusing on community solutions for changing behaviour and providing alternatives.
Identify the role to be played by the local media in the mine/UXO risk education programme and develop an appropriate strategy.