Due to previous and current armed clashes, communities in North and South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are being increasingly contaminated with remnants of conflict, primarily unexploded ordnance (UXO). UXO poses a serious risk both to resident populations and to internally displaced people, who will be returning to communities now littered with unfamiliar threats.
MAG currently has a two-person team on the ground in Goma and the surrounding area. The team has already identified UXO in several communities in urban and semi-rural locations, which pose a grave danger to the resident and returning populations. Identified UXO types include artillery and mortar projectiles, Rocket Propelled Grenades, and hand grenades.
Experienced MAG co-ordinator, David Horrocks, says: "The situation on the ground is uncertain, with continued fighting in some areas increasing the level of contamination of potentially lethal items. The MAG team has been able to access a number of communities and assess the level of threat.
"Of particular concern are the new threats, generated in this latest round of fighting, which displaced persons returning back to their communities will be unfamiliar with. MAG is currently working to access funding to ensure that internally displaced people and those that will return are aware of the threats. MAG hopes to complement this by clearing the remnants of conflict and help to save more lives."
An emergency intervention is being planned, funding permitting, which will focus initially on Mine Risk Education (MRE), firstly for people in camps prior to returning home, and, subsequently, in the community.
It is likely that this phase will be followed by technical interventions to remove items which represent a danger to the populations and to the aid agencies trying to reach them.
MAG also plans to provide the international and national field and support staff of other operational aid agencies with MRE training and UXO threat assessments to ensure their safety during travel and during field activities.
Without MRE, many people in the local community and in aid agencies would not know how to recognise the threat of UXO, which is why large waves of population movement can result in high levels of injury and death related to UXO accidents.
Those who have been provided with MRE understand the risks and avoid UXO. Importantly, this also leads to reporting of dangerous items, meaning that they can subsequently be destroyed by technical teams.
MAG has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2004, carrying out Battle Area Clearance (in Katanga and Equateur provinces) and, more recently, Conventional Weapons Management and Disposal activities (management and destruction of small arms and light weapons) nationwide.
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