August 12th, 2016 10:15 EST
UN Protects Civilians in Gaza From Threat of Unexploded Munitions
Hostilities in the Gaza Strip dating back to 2014 and earlier still pose serious threats to life and physical integrity in the tine enclave as explosive remnants of war (ERW) and other legacy hazards remained littered throughout the strip, said the United Nations humanitarian wing, spotlighting a sustainable strategy to mitigate those risks.
The full extent of contamination by ERW in Gaza is unknown, " said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a news release issued yesterday, which added that although a large number of ERW was cleared shortly after the 2014 conflict by both official and unofficial bodies, suspected remnants remain hidden throughout Gaza, either among the rubble of destroyed structures or buried below the surface.
In that regard, as part of a sustainable strategy to mitigate risks, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has focused on protection measures to include removing suspected ERW and providing a holistic risk mitigation framework in support of reconstruction and development efforts.
These measures comprised four mutually-reinforcing components, beginning with site-specific ERW risk assessments to determine the hazards and the level of risk.
Based on these assessments, ERW risk awareness training is then provided to construction workers. UNMAS monitors ongoing work activities to ensure compliance with recommended measures. The final component is responsive technical support from an Explosive Ordnance Disposal expert whenever an item is suspected to be an ERW. These activities are complemented by providing ERW risk education to communities at risk in order to reduce the number of accidents, " OCHA`s statement explained.
Following the end of hostilities in 2014, UNMAS supported the UN Development Programme`s (UNDP) Rubble Removal project for the safe extraction and processing of more than one million tons of debris. By end-July 2016, UNMAS had provided 81 risk assessments to support UNDP-coordinated reconstruction efforts by surveying 405,000m2 of land, including 41 km of roadways. Additionally, ERW risk awareness training has been provided to 211 workers with risk education sessions reaching nearly 39,000 people in communities at risk, including boys and girls.
In parallel, UNMAS continued to provide the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), other UN agencies and non-governmental partners with leadership and expert technical expertise in managing explosive hazards while developing contingency plans to strengthen emergency preparedness.
According to OCHA, the ERW risk mitigation measures deployed in Gaza constitute a responsible and sustainable response to identify and remove ERW, and ultimately protect the lives of civilians. "
Since the end of hostilities in August 2014, 17 people had been killed and 100 more injured by ERW, including 46 children.
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