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UN says cleared 19 million square meters from mines in Sudan

January 21, 2016 (KHARTOUM) -The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Director Habibulhaq Javed has announced that his organization has managed, in collaboration with the Sudanese government, to clear 19 million square meters from UXO and land mines in the east African country.

Sign warning drivers in South Sudan to stay on the road or they might encounter land mines (Photo minefields.com)

He said Italy aided the mine action plan in Sudan with 250.000 Euros, considering the Italian aid as a good beginning and an incentive for the rest of international donors to follow suit.

Javed said Thursday in a joint press conference with Italy’s Ambassador to Sudan Fabrizio Lobasso in Khartoum, , that the danger of mines still looms .

The UNMAS programme in Sudan still needs $ 12.4 million to implement the 2016 mine action plan for Sudan, he said.

’’This contribution will enable UNMAS to clear and release 900,000 square meters of land in the Talkok locality, Kassala province, and will allow us to provide risk education to 5,000 people’’, he said.

The contribution will also support UNMAS to strengthen the National Mine Action Center’s (NMAC) capacity for quality assurance and project management, resulting in increased national ownership, he further said .

The Sudanese eastern states, in particular Kassala, which saw protracted fighting between government and opposition forces up to 2006, is seen as one of the areas affected by land mines.

Sudan in 2006 signed a peace treaty with rebels of the East Front in the Eritrean capital Asmara.

Javed has, however, questioned Sudan’s ability to fulfil its international obligation to render Sudan mine free by 2019, saying that this hinges upon the provision of security in conflict zones and upon adequate donor aid to the expensive mine removal plans.

He cited South Kordofan state as the most affected by mines in Sudan and in which security threats present an impediment for mine survey operations.

According to the International Mines Agreement , Sudan was supposed to be declared mine-free by April 2014, but the resumption of fighting in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan made it difficult to attain that goal, prompting the deadline to be extended to 2019.

Javed noted that mine clearance needs a lot of money and a long time. Sudan needs $90 million to get rid of the mines and explosives , he said.

He further appreciated the cooperation of the Sudanese Government and its commitment to destroy its stockpile of mines in keeping with the International Mines Agreement .

However, Javed has noted that all international agencies active in mine removal had left the country with the exception of a Japanese group engaged in mine education programmes.

The UN official has called upon international mine action agencies to return to Sudan, indicating that the government of Sudan has pledged to facilitate their mission.

He said Sudan has done what is required from it and is committed to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention(The Ottawa Treaty) and had destroyed all its stockpile of mines in 2008.

For his part Italy’s Ambasador Fabrizio Lobasso has said his country was committed to boost global mine action plans and is very concerned about the threats posed by land mines and other explosive materials in Sudan.

He indicated the new role played by his government as leader of the team for mines control , urging other donors to boost the UN mine removal activity in Sudan.

As head of the group for mine control , Italy urges other donors to join in to support this programme and other international mine control programmes, he said.