Clearing the Path to Peace: Yemen’s Landmine Ordeal and Resilience
The Masam project, implemented by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), has made remarkable strides in mine clearance in Yemen during the first week of September 2023. This initiative plays a pivotal role in mitigating the dangers posed by landmines, safeguarding innocent lives, and promoting safety in conflict-affected regions.
In a single week, the dedicated teams of the Masam project successfully dismantled 783 mines scattered across various Yemeni regions. Among these were 7 anti-personnel mines, 84 anti-tank mines, 687 unexploded ordnance, and 5 improvised explosive devices. The scope of their work reflects the urgency and commitment required to address the looming threat of landmines.
The Scale of Impact
The scale of the Masam project’s impact extends far beyond the immediate results. Since its inception, this humanitarian effort has achieved the remarkable feat of removing 414,526 mines that were indiscriminately planted throughout Yemen. Each dismantled mine represents a potential life saved, protecting innocent children, women, and the elderly from the devastating consequences of landmines.
Returning Home Amidst Danger
The protracted conflict in Yemen has witnessed the widespread planting of millions of landmines and UXOs across the nation, rendering residential areas hazardous and uninhabitable. Families have faced the terrifying reality of displacement, forced to leave their homes to escape the dangers of conflict and landmines.
As the conflict unfolded in Yemen, at least 3,000 residents in his densely populated neighborhood were compelled to seek safer locations. In the midst of displacement, they experienced hardships ranging from unemployment to difficulties in accessing education and basic services.
Despite the looming threat of landmines and UXOs, these families were determined to return home. Their longing for a stable life and their resilience overcame their fear of danger. Yet, the return was fraught with peril, as countless types of landmines and UXOs remained scattered throughout their neighborhood.
A Yemeni man recounted harrowing stories of life in his neighborhood. He vividly remembered a bulldozer triggering a landmine explosion that claimed multiple lives. His voice heavy with grief, he also shared the heart-wrenching tale of a 13-year-old neighbor’s son who tragically lost his life after stepping on a landmine while tending his goats.
The Landmine Crisis in Yemen
In June 2018, amid the preparations for anti-Houthi operations in Yemen’s Hodeida, a Yemeni delegation highlighted the looming threat of landmines at the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in Geneva. Fast forward to today, and landmines continue to plague Yemen, with the Houthi rebels becoming prolific producers and users of these deadly devices.
A Decades-Old Problem
Landmines have afflicted Yemen for decades, dating back to various conflicts in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond. A 2000 survey identified over a thousand mine sites across the country, underscoring the magnitude of the issue.
What sets Yemen apart is not just the sheer number of landmines but their chaotic scattering. Unlike conventional forces that lay mines systematically for future collection, Yemen’s mines have been laid haphazardly, rendering vast areas dangerous even after conflicts have ended.
Houthi Landmine Proliferation
The Houthi rebels have brought landmines to the forefront of Yemen’s conflict. Mass production and deployment of landmines by the Houthis have disrupted military operations and posed grave risks to civilians. Their use of victim-activated mines, distinct from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), has resulted in significant casualties.
Questions of Origin and Supply
While Yemen was believed to have destroyed its domestic stockpiles of landmines in 2002, the Houthis’ extensive use of these devices raises questions about their source and supply. Some mines used by the Houthis resemble those manufactured in the former East Germany and the former Soviet Union, pointing to potential stockpiles from earlier years. Moreover, evidence suggests the Houthis may be mass producing their own landmines.
Rebuilding Communities and Lives
Addressing Yemen’s landmine crisis is not just a humanitarian imperative but also a strategic one. Neglecting this issue could undermine years of international norm-building and set a dangerous precedent for conflicts elsewhere. The landmine crisis in Yemen is a persistent threat that demands urgent attention and concerted action on both national and international fronts.
As efforts persist, the hope is to ultimately rid Yemen of the peril posed by landmines, enabling communities to rebuild and thrive in safety. KSrelief continues to demonstrate its dedication to the welfare and well-being of those affected by conflict and crises. The Masam project stands as a testament to the Kingdom’s enduring humanitarian efforts, reflecting its commitment to alleviating suffering and promoting stability in Yemen.
Not just that, organizations like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and its national partner, the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), have also played a critical role. Emergency Survey and Clearance Teams were dispatched to clear landmines and UXOs from affected areas, providing a lifeline of support to vulnerable communities.
The YEMAC teams cleared 58 anti-vehicle landmines, two anti-personnel landmines, one improvised explosive device (IED), and 42 different types of UXOs from Abdullah’s neighborhood and the main road. The impact of their work has been transformative, restoring safety and normalcy to the lives of residents. In 2022, UNDP’s national partner YEMAC achieved remarkable milestones, clearing a staggering 81,000 explosive devices, including anti-vehicle landmines, anti-personnel landmines, and IEDs. Their efforts have not only made vast areas of land safer but have also benefited over one million Yemenis.
Since 2017, UNDP Yemen, along with YEMAC and the Yemen Mine Action Co-ordination Centre (Y-MACC), has been diligently working to build national capacity to address the grave threat posed by explosive hazards. Their initiatives aim to restore basic services, facilitate access to infrastructure, reduce injuries and fatalities, and support mine control institutions, all while ensuring humanitarian aid reaches those in need.
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