Western Sahara MACC reaches an important milestone

19 Dec 2011

Western Sahara MACC reaches an important milestone

There are not only sandy dunes in the landscape of the Western Sahara desert. Since 1976, an unknown quantity of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) lay scattered across the vast territory. The result is thousands of casualties and hundred of deaths amongst local population transiting across dangerous areas in search of water and grazing land for their livestock.

As of August 2011, many lives will be spared in Western Sahara. Coordinated by the Mine Action Center in MINURSO, the UNMAS contractor, Landmine Action U.K. (LMA) working east of the berm, completed the destruction of Unexploded Ordnances (UXOs) in the 433 known locations that resulted from a survey conducted in 2006/7.

In the process more than 7,000 UXO were destroyed, ranging from 250kg aircraft bombs, hundreds of artillery projectiles, hand grenades, rocket propelled grenades. The destruction of these ERW that endangered the lives of humans and animals, will allow for the local population and UN military observers to enjoy enhanced freedom of movement.

In addition to the destruction of Unexploded Ordnances, under the coordination of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC), LMA also cleared 15,073,660 m², of cluster munitions strike areas and in the process destroyed more than eleven thousand cluster bomb units. This resulted from 186 Dangerous Areas that was cleared of the known 228 identified during the same survey conducted in 2006/7

All these efforts allowed for over a hundred of the previously contaminated areas been released to the local population. This resulted in increased livelihood opportunities, animal herding and development of small scale agricultural sites.

The MINURSO MACC will continue to ensure that the mine action response in Western Sahara evolves to meet the scope and scale of the threat; and that operations are coordinated, prioritized, tasked, and monitored in accordance with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).

Starting from October 2011, the MACC foresees a transition from cluster munitions clearance to mine field clearance. Not only does planning and progress indicate completion of all cluster munitions strike areas but accidents reports, showing a highest rate of mine related accidents, make transition to mine field clearance urgent. According to data available in the MACC Information Management System (IMSMA) database the mine affected surface east of the berm amounts to 134 km² of land.

by Ginevra Cucinotta
MINURSO Mine Action Coordination Centre Programme Officer