UNMAS Syria Response represents humanitarian mine action within the wider humanitarian response and ensures that it is well-integrated as a critical component of the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Syria, which includes all mine action activities.
Nearly 2 million beneficiaries were reached with risk education sessions by UNMAS, humanitarian partners and public service providers across Syria.
More than 3,470 risk education facilitators and team leaders were trained in 59 sub-districts across Syria. UNMAS and partners also provided briefing to more than 600 humanitarian workers on explosive ordnance risk awareness in support of safe humanitarian access.
Surveys and -where possible- marking of hazardous areas were carried out by mine action actors in 173 communities across Syria. Throughout 2021, the UNMAS explosive ordnance team surveyed more than 1,000 hectares of land in Rural Damascus, 60% of which was confirmed hazardous. The first UNMAS-supported clearance team deployed to Darayya, Rural Damascus on 1 December 2021. In December 2021, an area equal to 10 football pitches of agricultural land was cleared and deemed safe to access for communities.
UNMAS and humanitarian mine action partners provided victim assistance (VA) services to nearly 17,000 people in need across Syria. More than 80,000 services, including medical referrals, provision of prosthetics and rehabilitation support were delivered. Resources to provide assistance to survivors of explosive ordnance still remains limited and insufficient to meet needs.
Mine action is a humanitarian need in Syria. The scale, severity, and complexity of the explosive ordnance threat in Syria remains a major protection concern, compounding the humanitarian crisis and the vulnerability of civilians in affected areas. The UN Mine Action Service estimates that since 2013, an average of four people per day have been killed or injured by explosive ordnance.
According to the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 10.2 million men, women, and children are at risk from explosive contamination including items such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Approximately one third of communities are estimated to be potentially contaminated.
The destruction and contamination of residential areas and critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools and roads, hinders civilian access to basic services and the safe return of displaced persons. Explosive ordnance is a lethal barrier to movement, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and endangers those seeking refuge from violence.
In July 2018, UNMAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Syrian Arab Republic. With its deployment in October 2018, UNMAS started positive engagement toward the expansion of humanitarian mine action activities across all of Syria, prioritizing the communities most in need.
UNMAS aims to minimize the threat of explosive ordnance for communities most at risk. UNMAS also coordinates the mine action area of responsibility across Syria to deliver a coherent humanitarian response to at-risk communities.
In line with the humanitarian response, UNMAS provides financial and technical support for survey, risk education and victim assistance activities and projects. UNMAS further supports the overall humanitarian sectors through technical advice and the provision of safety training to humanitarian workers.
As the mine action sector lead, UNMAS coordinates humanitarian mine action response in Syria. Through collection of information on the achievements, challenges, and gaps, UNMAS works with the humanitarian mine action sector partners to establish prioritization frameworks and understanding that enhance the outreach and the targeting of people in greatest need. UNMAS hosts monthly coordination meetings and provides technical advice, such as helping find alternative solutions to implement and manage humanitarian mine action activities in the context of Syria where access is restricted. Information management is central to UNMAS coordination as it facilitates needs-based prioritization, tailoring the response to specific needs, increasing the effectiveness of the sector response, and laying the foundations for future activities.
Explosive Ordnance Risk Education
Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) is an essential component of the humanitarian response in Syria and the first step to guide people in need on mitigating the risk of explosive ordnance. UNMAS uses tailored RE materials for identified at-risk groups, such as children, displaced people, farmers, and is currently developing new materials in consultation with other sectors such as Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Non-Food Items throughout Syria to integrate RE into their activities to mainstream RE into the wider humanitarian response and reach communities most in need.
Survey, Marking and Clearance
Thanks to UNMAS advocacy efforts, surveying, marking and clearance of explosive ordnance are identified as priorities in the 2022-23 draft Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). Survey of residential areas and key infrastructure enables safe delivery of basic services by humanitarian actors and safe access to basic services and livelihood activities in areas impacted by explosive ordnance for at-risk civilians. Identifying the scale and scope of contamination through recording, mapping, and marking for future clearance, will reduce the likelihood of exposure in the interim. Clearance of explosive ordnance is the only means to remove explosive ordnance threats for good. Clearance activities provide the basis for early recovery efforts through safe rehabilitation and safe use of agricultural land, supporting communities’ socio-economic independence and reducing harmful coping strategies.
Under the general direction that survivors and victims of explosive incidents obtain assistance for recovery and reintegration, UNMAS delivers with its partners targeted assistance and other victim assistance services, as provider of last resort. These services include emergency medical care to increase the rate of survival, trauma surgery and pain management, as well as physical rehabilitation, prostheses and orthotics to reduce the rate of impairment. Yet the current capacity remains limited in meeting the ever increasing demand in Syria. Explosive ordnance related casualties contribute to increased needs from the health sector, including in the longer term, with a large proportion of survivors sustaining permanent impairment and requiring long term psychosocial and socio-economic integration support.
UNMAS has received generous contributions and support from Australia, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, un-earmarked funding from Denmark and The Netherlands, as well as funding from the European Union and the multi-donor humanitarian country-based pooled funds for Syria (SHF and SCHF).
The Syria Response Programme currently seeks USD 34 million to support coordination and to scale up humanitarian mine action interventions until end of 2022, including much-needed survey and clearance activities across Syria. Out of USD 34 million, USD 26 million is needed to expand the survey and clearance work within Syria in priority humanitarian locations, including high-risk search and clearance at residential areas requiring armoured mechanical capacity. Of this, UNMAS requires USD 13 million urgently to complete the pilot clearance project in Rural Damascus, including clearance of the urban areas requiring mechanical assets (phase 2), and the cost of sustaining the UNMAS presence in Syria, which includes personnel and running costs.
Data as of March 2022