NGOs Race to Alert South Lebanon to Peril of Mines

Published June 1st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

South Lebanon may be free of Israeli troops but it remains littered with land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), which have already claimed the lives of 6-year-old Alaa Adnan Madi and 14-year-old Lama Ahmad Hamadi, and wounded 15 people in the past week alone, reported Daily Star Thursday.  

The problem of mines in Lebanon is no novelty, added the Lebanese daily, but the liberation of the South brought with it a new danger, with an influx of people returning to their villages or visiting the region for the first time.  

In their excitement, people parked their cars on roadsides and posed for photographs with abandoned tanks and artillery or tore down signs written in Hebrew, including signs warning of minefields.  

Such behavior put people and their adventurous children at great risk and revealed the need for large-scale land mine and UXO awareness campaigns, said the report. International organizations have worked closely with local NGOs and community leaders in a campaign to create awareness about mines around the country. But in light of the recent withdrawal, emergency task forces were set up to focus special attention on the villages in or near the liberated zone.  

One of the programs already in existence was established by Save the Children Sweden, in cooperation with Save the Children US, which held a three-day training program for 24 young volunteers in Tyre in mid-April.  

The volunteers, who come from STC Youth Clubs in Sidiqin, Zibqin, Srifa, Deir Kifa, Sidon and Tyre, as well as a number of local youth organizations, were instructed in mine awareness by the Lebanese Army’s National De-mining Bureau and STC trainers who had attended a mine-awareness conference in Yemen in 1998, according to the English daily.  

Similarly, the World Rehabilitation Fund has financed mine-awareness projects in Lebanon since 1998 but events prompted it to mobilize to make more of an impact in the country’s southern region, the report added.  

“We’re printing flyers, stickers and posters to be distributed by the Red Cross in the south and the western Bekaa,” WRF’s land-mine project coordinator Toufik Rizkallah told the paper. The Red Cross will also be replacing mine warning signs, Rizkallah said, while warning brochures were being distributed in Rashaya by the Vision Association for Development, Rehabilitation and Care.  

WRF emergency meetings began last week, with lectures held in Jibsheet and in high schools in Qaroun. The Scouts and Red Cross workers in Tyre also got a crash course in mine-awareness last Saturday.  

Explaining the STC’s focus on training for children, Christine Nelke, the mine-awareness program officer in Lebanon, said: “Children are the most common victims of land mines and UXO. This is because these things attract children’s curiosity.”  

Newly trained STC youth volunteers return to their communities and formulate mine-awareness programs together with children from their youth clubs and with the help of leading members of their community.  

“STC doesn’t believe in intervening as outsiders to lecture people about the dangers of mines,” explained Nelke. “We try to involve key people in the community, like health workers, educators and religious personalities.” Such people command respect and credibility in their communities and are more likely to have an impact on others.  

The STC is also an advocate of the child-to-child educational approach, which, according to Kamal Shayya, community development specialist at STC-US, is a faster way to spread information.  

As its name suggests, it elicits children’s participation in their own learning process. Photos, videos, games, drawing, storytelling and role-playing are some of the less traditional educational methods used by STC to change children’s attitudes and behavior toward mines and UXO.  

After identifying community needs, said the report, youth club members collect information from their environment, analyze it and plan their own mine-awareness programs. They implement the program in their environment, spreading the warning message to parents, siblings and friends. Finally, they evaluate the success of their work, concluded Daily Star – Albawaba.com  

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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