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Mine Awareness Camp for Children

During the recent conflict in the former Yugoslavia, millions of mines and UXO were seeded into the Bosnian countryside. MEDEX, a local NGO, brings children from all over Bosnia to its mine awareness camp. The MEDEX Mine Awareness Camp is located on the Pavlovica mountain, 20 km from Novi Travnik, Bosnia--Herzegovina. The program’s main goal is to educate the children in mine and UXO awareness, first aid, social and ethnic tolerance and respect for the countryside.

MEDEX originated as the mountaineering society of Novi Travnik. It was formed in 1968, with a diverse membership. In the summer of 1994, in the wake of increasing incidents of mine injuries and fatalities, particularly among children, the society formed a local NGO to combat the problem. MEDEX was first registered with the government in August 1994, and hosted its first mine awareness camp in May 1996. Many other international NGOs and organizations have supported MEDEX, especially ICRC, who supplied equipment funding.

Justification for the Project

Since the signing of the Dayton Agreement and the end in recent hostilities, many people have returned to their homes and farms. Unfortunately, there are few places in Bosnia where it is certain there are no mines. As people returned to their land, the frequency of mine and UXO incidents increased, particularly among children. ICRC directed a mine and UXO incidents study in 1996. Though the study did not cover all cantons or any of Republika Srpska, it did record 312 separate incidents over 11 months that resulted in more than 120 deaths and more than 200 amputations--a significant portion of which were children. The study was not complete but has been used as a minimum with the true figures estimated at three times higher. SFOR estimates there are between one to three million mines littering the Bosnian countryside with as many as 50 percent in unmarked sites. It estimates that a concerted effort to find and deactivate only 90 percent of them would take several years.

The Mine Awareness Camp

The beneficiary group targeted by MEDEX is Bosnian children from eight to 18 years old. The project’s main objective is to provide all children with professional instruction in mine and UXO awareness. The camp’s central location facilitates visits from all areas. Schools, youth centers, youth groups, children’s homes and orphanages are invited. The camp has a capacity of 60 children, and the children stay for six days. More than 3,000 children a year can benefit from its resources and lessons on mine awareness, first aid, social and ethnic tolerance, and respect for the countryside. The children also engage in activities such as swimming and skiing.

MEDEX aims to make the camp as enjoyable as possible for the children while educating them on the hazards of landmines. For many of the children, it will be their first chance for recreational or educational activities since the beginning of the war. However, MEDEX is not a holiday camp, and apart from the tuition, the children are expected to help run the camp. At the end of the week, the children complete a short written test on mine awareness.

In 1996, MEDEX carried out a prototype operation to ascertain the demand for this type of project. Using tents, equipment and food from international organizations, the MEDEX mine awareness camp had 720 children pass through from all over Bosnia. None of these children have subsequently been involved in mine incidents. Unfortunately, because of lack of funds, most of these organizations are unable to help on a regular basis. If the camp and its life saving work are to continue, a donor must be found. MEDEX estimates the need for this project to be ECU 206.974.4.

Contact Information
Mountaineering Society “Haseljic Edin - MEDEX”
MEDEX Mine Awareness Camp for Children, Registration number: R - II - 111/94
Omladinska 8 72290 Novi Travnik Bosnia and Herzegovina
Phone/Fax: +387 72 795 396
E-mail: medex@geocities.com
E-mail: A. Kuric, Secretary: kameni@yahoo.com