Children learn to identify and avoid landmines

At least 9,300 schoolchildren and thousands more people from communities around the Crooks Corner to Sango border post minefield have been taught how to identify and avoid anti-personnel mines, according to a Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre official.

“The mine risk education programme targeted children and staff of both primary and secondary schools and communities in minefield areas between September 30 and October 4,” said ZIMAC coordinator Major S Masenda.

“During the outreach, more than19 schools took part and 3,000 exercise books were donated. At the mine awareness launch at Gwaizvi, four primary schools with an approximate enrolment of 1,000 pupils received 2,000 exercise books.”

Masenda said the awareness programme was sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“During risk education, we attempt to reach out to everyone from identified target communities or groups. Teachers and schools development committee members attend whenever we conduct such programmes, but we also intend to train teachers so that they become key communicators for us just like village health workers are for the ministry of health,” he said. Since 1980, more than 1,500 people have been killed and 2,000 maimed by landmines along the country’s south-eastern border with Mozambique.

More than 120,000 livestock have also been killed over the same period. ICRC spokesperson Tendayi Sengwe said ZIMAC removed more than 175 landmines a day from an area of 3,000 sq metres.

“Since February 2012, ICRC cooperation with ZIMAC has resulted in eight de-miners trained in mine risk education and 5,000 exercise books donated to schoolchildren,” he said.

“Over the same period 69 de-miners were trained to current international mine action standards, with 50 kits of protective equipment and clothing donated to support their work,” added Sengwe.

It’s estimated that there are between 1.5m and 1.8m anti-personnel mines still to be cleared in Zimbabwe at a cost of $100m.

Zimbabwe signed up to the 1998 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention with an obligation to clear and destroy anti-personnel mines. In 2000, parliament passed the Anti-Personnel Mines (Prohibition) Act, mandating government to ensure the removal and destruction of mines within 10 years.

ICRC is a humanitarian organisation that helps countries such as Zimbabwe get rid of landmines through provision of equipment, material and training.

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