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Issue 5.3 | December 2001

The Landmines Resource Center for Lebanon

After 15 years of war and 22 years of occupation, Lebanon is littered with landmines. The Landmines Resource Center (LMRC) seeks to improve the situation by collecting, analyzing and disseminating related data.

by Habbouba Aoun, University of Balamand

Link: Mine Action in Lebanon Facts Sheet

The Landmines Resource Center for Lebanon was established in 1997 at the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Balamand. Since 1998, its operations expanded with the help of a grant made available through the World Rehabilitation Fund and the United States Agency for International Development.

The Landmines Resource Center in Lebanon (LMRC) aims at lasting improvement in the lives of those affected by mines. It advocates prevention, rehabilitation and social reintegration in the context of a comprehensive concept of reconstruction and development. Valuable and important technical interventions such as mine clearance and the provision of prosthetics are provided; however, rebuilding the lives of survivors and of families of those killed by landmines and unexploded ordnance and developing affected societies has to consider the necessity of readjusting the relationship between the individual and the social, cultural and physical environment in order to provide a qualitative and sustainable improvement in living conditions, a prerequisite to sustainable development.

The LMRC works on local capacity building, needs assessment, data gathering and analysis and dissemination of information, including what relates to international charters and humanitarian laws, mine awareness and victim assistance. In addition, it is actively involved in providing and mobilizing support to the demining and mine action initiatives by the National Demining Office of the Lebanese Army.

The Landmines Resource Center in Lebanon works very closely with:

• Communities and individuals, particularly youngsters and farmers, living in, or concerned with, dangerous areas, minefields or other mine and UXO affected areas:

• Youth (students and scouts)

• Policy and decision-makers in the public and private sectors

• Concerned governmental bodies and non-governmental and community based organizations

• Academic institutions and schools, concerned professionals, practitioners and volunteers

• Survivors (victims) of landmines in Lebanon and their families

LMRC is achieving an incremental (close to comprehensive) understanding of the landmine problem in Lebanon based on scientific national surveys and partnership with concerned counterparts and stakeholders. A 1998—1999 nationwide door-to-door survey of landmine victims in Lebanon and a complementary survey (July 2000) assessing the landmine problem and related burden in the liberated South and West Bekaa permitted solid foundations to such understanding. Benefiting from lessons learned and experiences gained in mine affected countries, the LMRC has been able to contribute to and be proactive in well-structured mine awareness in Lebanon and to provide a strategy for the role of the victims’ rehabilitation teams according to varying regional needs and resources. The LMRC has also conducted a series of workshops aimed at building local capacity to analyze and communicate needs and at empowering local communities to become active partners in planning and implementing mine action programs and activities at the country and national levels.

Networking with others concerned at national and international levels has led the Center to be an essential reference for a large number of nationals and internationals, including UN agencies concerned with the landmine problem in Lebanon and the Arab Countries. The Landmines Resource Center is gaining and expanding acceptance and status as a vital entity for the country. Its solid partnership with the community and the Lebanese Army (the National Demining Office) and its mine action strategy has resulted in high organizational performances.

The Landmine Problem in Lebanon

The landmine problem in Lebanon is the result of fifteen years of war (1975—1990) and twenty-two years of occupation (1978—2000). Estimates of the number of landmines, UXO and cluster bombs vary. Until May 2000, the total number of landmines in the country was thought to be 150,000, excluding those in the occupied zone1. However, after the liberation, the UN estimated that the liberated areas in the South and West Bekaa on their own contained 130,000 landmines and UXO within an area of 850 square kilometers2. Israel has admitted planting 70,000 landmines and 288 booby-trapped devices; those are believed to be distributed over 188 mine fields and spread among the villages of the border from Ras Naqoura on the coast to opposite Shebaa in the Mount Hermon foothills3.

In a survey conducted in July 2000, the LMRC has identified 429 dangerous areas reported by local communities in 196 villages. Parallel to this, the Lebanese Army has reported about 580 dangerous areas in Cazas of Nabatieh, Tyre, Jezzine, Saida, Hasbayya, Bint Jbeil, Marjeyoun and West Bekaa. Recurrent injuries confirm the spread of large numbers of dangerous areas in agricultural lands, pedestrian pathways and backyards. The total number of landmine victims in Lebanon so far is 2758 (1168 deaths), of which 166 (17 killed) have occurred between May 23, 2000 and October 10, 2001.

The socio-economic impact of the landmine problem in Lebanon, and specifically in the South and West Bekaa, is huge. Landmines, cluster bombs, UXO and booby-traps are mainly planted in agricultural areas where agriculture used to be the major source of income for villagers. War, occupation and landmines have decreased opportunities for normal life in the South and increased the exodus of the population. Less than 26 percent of the indigenous population resided in the South during the occupation. Seven percent tried to return and settle after the Liberation but almost all of them have returned to their displacement place of residence at the end of the summer of year 2000. Access to health services, secondary levels of schooling and job opportunities are scarce6. The infrastructure has been almost completely demolished7. The LMRC Survey of the Landmine Problem in the Liberated South and West Bekaa showed a noticed decrease in agricultural production due to landmines. The unavailability of appropriate and affordable rehabilitation services has been increasing the burden of the landmine problem on affected families.

There are many needs of which mine clearance is one of the priorities. The valuable and important demining initiatives of the Lebanese Army are appreciated but so far are not enough . UNIFIL operations in mine clearance are military and not humanitarian8. Marking and fencing dangerous areas is very limited and almost non-existent in many areas. Local communities suffer from long administrative procedures that hinder their call for and receipt of immediate help; this situation promotes feelings of despair and hopelessness among those who want to cultivate their land and receive compensation for not being able to use their mined agricultural lands9. Families with landmine victims and landmine survivors suffer more due to the need for medical treatment, rehabilitation services, job opportunities and social assistance, all of which are very scarce or not affordable.

Mine awareness education continues to be limited by scarce funds. The World Rehabilitation Fund and the United States Agency for International Development were the first contributors to Mine Action in Lebanon10. After the Israeli withdrawal in May 2000, many other donor countries pledged in-kind and monetary support in favor of mine action in general, and mine clearance operations in particular, in the South. Other than the US, these include Australia, Britain, Canada, European Union, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Pakistan and Ukraine. About 200 Syrian soldiers, fully equipped, are involved in demining activities with the Lebanese Army. On May 21, 2001, the United Arab Emirates formally announced a $50 million (U.S.) donation to demine South Lebanon. A memorandum of understanding is being developed between the Lebanese and Emirates governments in order to facilitate effective implementation of respective mine action activities. Real work on the ground is expected to start by the end of October 2001.

Endnotes

1 Landmine Monitor Report, 1999.

2 Declaration of the UNIFIL-Ukrainian Contingent to France Press on July 19, 2000.

3 Interview of the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Cell in Naqoura with the Daily Star newspaper (Reporter: Nicholas Blandford) on January 18, 2001.

4 UNDP study of the South, 1999.

5 March 14 and April 18 Committee of the Lebanese Council of Deputies, March 14, 2001.

6 March 14 and April 18 Committee of the Lebanese Council of Deputies, March 14, 2001.

7 March 14 and April 18 Committee of the Lebanese Council of Deputies, March 14, 2001.

8 Interview of the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Cell in Naqoura with the Daily Star newspaper (Reporter: Nicholas Blandford) on January 18, 2001.

9 Community meetings in Houla-Bint Jbeil, Ibl Essaqi- Marjeyou, Kfartebnit-Nabatieh, April 11, 2001.

10 In 1998, USAID was the first donor agency to initiate a program on landmines in Lebanon, at the governmental and non-governmental levels.

Contact Information

Habbouba Aoun
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Balamand
P.O. Box 166378
Ashrafieh, Beirut 1100 2807
Lebanon

Tel: 961-1-562108/9
Fax: 961-1-562110
E-mail: landmine@Balamand.edu.lb

 

 


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