Mon. Jul 15th, 2024
Gaza War: UN demining experts cautioned about long-term threat to life from unexploded weaponsUnexploded Weapons. Image Credits: UNOCHA/ Themba Linden via UN News

The devastation lingers beyond the cessation of conflict, as the ongoing threat to human lives persists even in the aftermath of war. Furthermore, there is reduced accountability on the part of adversaries, as the danger emanates from the remnants of war.

Recently, the head of the United Nations (UN) mine clearance experts warned that the Strip is now in its “most dangerous period.” 

During discussions at the 27th International Meeting of Mine Action National Directors and United Nations Advisers in Geneva, the conflict in Gaza was one of the central topics of focus.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the head of UN peacekeeping and mine action, reiterated support for “humanitarian efforts to convoys” and risk assessment. While securing a humanitarian ceasefire remains paramount, the path forward appears challenging. Similarly, providing humanitarian assistance in the region poses significant difficulties, as experts emphasize the life-threatening risks associated with delivering aid to the war-stricken population in Gaza.

Additionally, Mungo Birch, Chief of the UN Mine Action Programme (UNMAS) in the State of Palestine, said: “This is the most dangerous period; once people start returning to the north, that’s when most accidents will occur because they won’t be familiar with where your unexploded ordnance is located.”

“It’s important that once the returns start, we’re poised and ready to be able to provide the risk education they need,” he added. 

The Problem of Rubble 

Once the humanitarian ceasefire is achieved, the next challenge will be the clearance of debris. Reports indicate that approximately 75 percent of Gaza’s population is displaced, underscoring the critical importance of removing explosive ordnances.

Furthermore, numerous reports have emphasized that it will require more than ten years to remove all the debris resulting from the conflict in Gaza, which is estimated to be around 37 million tonnes. Mungo Birch pointed out that this quantity exceeds the rubble in Ukraine, where the front spans 600 miles, whereas in Gaza, it only stretches 25 miles.

Emphasized upon the various contaminants including around 800,000 tonnes of Asbestos, which is naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral invisible to the naked eye. 

Pointing to just the beginning of the issue, he mentioned that “the problem is there is more rubble in Gaza than there is space to spread it out.” This is exacerbated by the fact that the Strip is densely populated, with over 80 percent of its landmass urbanized.

The findings from the recent UN assessment mission, conducted following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the southern area of Khan Younis city last month, revealed that the streets were littered with unexploded munitions, including 1,000-pound bombs.

Constant Fear

According to the United Nations statistics, 60 million individuals residing in 60 nations worldwide endure ongoing anxiety due to the presence of landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and unexploded ordnance.

The peril faced by civilians returning to their homes and communities after fleeing a crisis remains constant. In protracted conflicts such as Afghanistan’s, these risks escalate as the conflict zones widen. Consequently, children often fall victim to these dangers. Exploring unfamiliar metal objects scattered in areas where they once lived or played can trigger explosions, leading to tragic loss of life or severe injuries, inevitably leaving lasting trauma.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 640 children lost their lives and 541 suffered severe injuries in Afghanistan from January 2022 to June 2023.

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