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10.04.2012 Africa

MINURSO marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action

By United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
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NEW YORK, April 10, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- On 3 and 4 April 2012, MINURSO marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action with a programme by MACC (Mine Action Coordination Centre) to remember landmine and UXO victims as well as acknowledge the sacrifices of mine action workers around the world. The SRSG and Head of MINURSO Hany Abdel-Aziz chaired the ceremony and read the Secretary General's message on the occasion.

SRSG underlined the significance of de-mining activities in Western Sahara as a key aspect of MINURSO's Mandate and among the Mission's accomplishments. The MACC team delivered its 2011-2012 report of activities (which includes Landmine Safety Trainings programmes for 1,153 UN personnel) before screening a United Nations Mine Action Service Video Lend Your Leg which sensitized staff on the effects of UXOs, ERW and cluster bombs on civilians. A minefield demonstration was also staged.

MINURSO also marked the occasion in Tindouf, Algeria.

As of 31 December 2011, 20,342,607 m2 of land were cleared in the Territory and between 1 January and 3 April 2012, the figure was 1,390,350 m2 for a grand total of 21,732,957 m2 of land. The Moroccan Army (FAR) is reported to have cleared and demined 3,544 sq km between January 2007 and 29 February 2012. Between 2007 and 2010, MINURSO destroyed 20,835 items including anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, unexploded ordnances and cluster bomb units. From January 2007 to January 2012, the FAR has destroyed 29,547 items including anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, unexploded ordnances and cluster bomb units.

As part of MINURSO's efforts to improve Mine Safety and Security in Western Sahara, AOAV (Action On Armed Violence, a UN-contracted NGO), in collaboration with the Geographical Information System (GIS) unit of the Mission, conducted an assessment of 11 areas of concern in the Team Site Bir-Lahlou AOR covering 1,208,451 sq km. between late May and early June 2011. Personnel began clearing the area in January 2012. A data management system is also to be established on landmine/ERWs-related accidents, victims and survivors. The current year has witnessed an increase in MINURSO's capabilities regarding mine clearance operations with the introduction of Mine Wolf 300, a de-mining system that has enhanced the speed of de-mining activities East of Berm.

UN Mine Action Service established MACC within MINURSO in 2008 to help the Mission carry out a key component of its Mandate. Western Sahara, covering 266000 sq km of land, remains infested with UXOs, mines and others ERWs. A UN-funded survey revealed that the Territory is one of the most heavily mined areas of the world.

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