Geneva meeting commends Sri Lanka’s demining programme

COLOMBO (The Island/ANN) - International Meeting on National Mine Action for National Directors highlights Sri Lanka as a possible model country for promoting Mine Action Programme. 

The Demining programme cleared an area of 1,277sq. km. which lead to the resettlement of 258,000 families, informs Secretary to the Ministry of Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development.

The 30-year long civil conflict in Sri Lanka left many areas of the Northern and Eastern parts of the country contaminated by anti-personnel mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). The International Meeting on Mine Action for National Directors and UN Advisors, held at the UN Office in Geneva recently, was aimed at discussing the lessons learnt, best practices and emerging issues of the mine affected countries, says V. Sivagnanasothy, Secretary to the Ministry of National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development, Vocational Training and Skills Development and Youth Affairs.He said that the Suspected Hazardous Area was initially 1,302 Sq. Km mostly in the eight districts of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The mines clearance programme enabled the release of a large area of 1,277sq. km. for safe settlement and as a result, directly and indirectly contributed to the resettlement of 258,000 families."As at end 2018, only 25 sq. km. is remaining to be cleared. This area includes Muhamalai in Kilinochchi District, Nagarkovil in Jaffna District, Maritimepattu and Oddusudan in Mullaitivu District and other areas in the Northern and Eastern Districts. Out of the eight districts, Batticaloa has been declared as mine cleared area. Under the district-by-district approach, it is proposed to clear Trincomalee and Jaffna in 2019. Government of Sri Lanka’s Vision is to make Sri Lanka a Mine Free Country by 2020. The achievement of this vision requires an additional estimated funds of US$ 20 million. Currently, HALO Trust, MAG, Sri Lanka Army, DASH and SHARP are involved in the demining works. The achievement of Sri Lanka was commended at the International Meeting on Mine Action for National Directors and UN Advisors, compared to other countries."The National Ownership, Government’s Commitment, the availability of the national mine action strategy, Government’s resource mobilization, robust monitoring and evaluation framework and a dedicated institutional structure of National Mine Action Centre within the Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Northern Province Development Division of the Ministry and Information Management System with disaggregated data and working towards the vision of a mine free country by 2020 have been commended at the meeting." The Sri Lankan delegation comprised V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and Skills Development, Permanent Resident Representative, UN Geneva Ambassador A.L.A. Azees and Deputy Permanent Representative Samantha Jayasuriya. The plenary session was chaired by Ambasador Hans Battskar, Permanent representative of Norway, Geneva with the participation of Michael Copland, Global Coordinator, Child Protection Area of Responsibility and Julie Gill, Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF, German. Side event was also organized to share the best practices. HALO Trust and MAG participated in the technical session.Sivagnanasothy said that the Sri Lankan Mine Action Programme included land mine and ERW clearance, stockpile destruction, mine risk education, victim assistance programme covering the humanitarian perspective as well as development perspective were considered as a holistic approach. "Moreover, the Mine Risk Education Programme with the support of UNICEF and other stakeholders integrated mine risk education at schools, communities and media and also paid special focus on high risk groups such as scrap metal collectors, firewood collectors, garbage burners and resettlers who burn bushes for land clearing. The Mine Risk Education was successfully implemented and as a result, influenced to promote risk reduction behaviour. As a result, the casualties both deaths and injuries of the mine victims was 211 in 2001 was reduced to zero in 2018. The statistical evidences shows increased reporting by civilians on explosive devices and reduction in the lead time for disposal of mines and explosive devices. Further, mine risk reduction strategies such as "safe play areas" for children and Mapping, Marking, sign boards and fencing of risky areas helped to reduce mine victims as compared to many other countries. Victim assistance programme included provision of first aid, medical care, rehabilitation by providing artificial limbs (prosthesis) and other assisting devices such as wheel chairs, crutches, walking stick etc. The proramme also included addressing trauma through psycho-social support. vocational training and skills development, catch-up education and social and economic programmes are also initiated and expanded. Ministry of National Policies, Resettlement and Rehabilitation and Northern Province Development with Ministry of social services and ministry of health is making efforts to strengthen the victim assistance programme. International Meeting on National Mine Action for National Directors highlighted Sri Lanka as a possible model country for promoting Mine Action Programme", he added.

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