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Syria ordnance disarming effort will be bigger job than Afghanistan, U.N. says

McClatchy Newspapers

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GENEVA: The United Nations has recorded 37,000 incidents of heavy weapons use in the three-year Syrian civil war, a staggering frequency that the top U.N. official for disarming mines and discarded munitions warns will plague civilians and humanitarian aid groups for years after the fighting there ends.

“Remember,” said Agnes Marcaillou, the head of the United Nations Mine Action Service, “millions of refugees and displaced people must walk back on contaminated roads, and humanitarian helicopters will have to be used to deliver food aid if the roads are not cleared.”

The U.N. mine agency, relying on news accounts for its information, has been plotting on a map all reported incidents where Syrian government and rebel forces have fought.

The result is a “clash database,” which will be used to search for unexploded ordnance if a peace arrangement is ever negotiated.

“We have right now recorded 37,000 such clashes,” she said.

“We must put mine action on the Syrian solution agenda,” Marcaillou said, adding that her agency already has drawn up plans for working in Syria and that those plans had been given to Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. peace envoy to Syria and the moderator earlier this year of failed talks between the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and its opponents.

How to deal with what’s left behind on the battlefield when a conflict ends has been a problem of all wars.

The U.N. mine agency estimates that about 10 times every day someone in the world is killed or maimed by a landmine or other unexploded ordnance.

Friday was the U.N.’s day for mine awareness.

The mine agency is now active in 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.


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