South Sudan: Walking Without Fear From Landmines

press release

"When we came back after the fighting ended, we knew soldiers had been here and we were worried about landmines, but we didn't know which areas were dangerous," says Alfredo Ohuda.

Alfredo, pictured above, is community leader and assistant administrator of Kimodonge, a village close to the city of Torit in South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state.

He continues: "Then the headmaster's child died when he stepped on a mine. He was only nine years old. We were scared, but we knew we had to grow food to survive because we had so little. One villager found six mines when he was working in the fields."

MAG teams funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Dutch government are now in the area clearing the minefields.

Farmers from Kimodonge have tried to cultivate the land, but found a number of landmines. Few people dared to farm there afterwards.

The contaminated area is extremely fertile and people desperately need safe access to the land.

Additionally, the nearby bridge needs to be re-built to allow access to three villages across the river that have been cut off from vehicle traffic for many years.

"We were tasked to come here as a priority," explained MAG Technical Field Manager Jack Frost. "There is plenty of evidence that mines have been laid, and it is clear to see from a military perspective why they were used to defend this position."

"We are using the Bozena remote-controlled machine to flail the land that is most needed by the community. It is relatively flat and the ground is soft, so conditions are ideal for this machine.

"The machine does two passes of the land. When we find mines or evidence of mines, our approach to the clearance then changes and the procedure moves to using deminers with detectors.

"The machine is very good for determining the high-risk areas. We will then check other areas through technical survey¹."

Soon, the area will be safe again and the work will have made a real difference to the people in this community.

Alfredo concluded by saying: "The people here are grateful. We all feel joy at seeing MAG here. Soon we will be able to walk with no fear. We will be able to collect water and firewood, and collect stones to rebuild our village."

¹ Note: Technical survey is defined by the International Mine Action Standards as the detailed topographical and technical investigation of known or suspected hazardous areas identified during the planning phase.

South Sudan profile

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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