Yemen Humanitarian Demining Program
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a demining program in Yemen had proven to be a challenge for
many organizations. In 1997, the government of Yemen requested
humanitarian demining U.S. assistance and in 1998 USCENTCOM
started a viable demining program.
by Commander Jack Holly, USN
The Republic of Yemen
is the southern-most nation on the Arabian Peninsula and has unique
geographic features for this region. Like most Middle East countries, it
contains desert land, rich oil reserves, and major ports for shipping.
Unlike its neighbors, Yemen’s landscape rises quickly from the Red Sea
and Gulf of Aden into mountain ranges well over 2,000 meters above sea
level. Much of this landscape is fertile farmland on which the Yemeni
people grow their food and raise livestock.
Prior to seeking U.S. assistance, the
government of Yemen removed more than 68,000 mines through the use of
outdated Soviet equipment. They organized small groups of demining
soldiers, but due to a lack of demining equipment and training they had
only limited success. In March of 1995, The United Nations Department of
Humanitarian Affairs (UNDHA) attempted to train deminers but this
initiative was relatively unsuccessful. Due to poor quality control
methods and faulty equipment, as many as 20 mines may remain in any
field listed as cleared by the UN-trained Yemen military.
In June 1997 the government of Yemen
formally requested U.S. Humanitarian Demining (HD) assistance through
the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, which was subsequently approved by the
Interagency Working Group on Humanitarian Demining. After receiving the
Department of State’s Policy Assessment Visit report, U.S. Central
Command (US-CENTCOM) led a Requirements Determination Site Survey (RDSS)
in November 1997 to assess Yemen’s requirements, their commitment, and
capability to establish an indigenous and viable demining organization.
A Pre-deployment Site Survey was conducted in April 1998 and the
USCENTCOM-sponsored train-the-trainer program, which included survey and
clearance techniques, mine awareness, medical trauma and victim
assistance, information management, and mine action headquarters staff
training began in October 1998.
problem is a result of a series of conflicts dating back to mid-1960.
During the intervening years, strife between the north and south, an
insurrection, and tribal clashes left the country littered with mines. A
tenuous peace was established in 1990; however, between May and July
1994, that peace erupted into further civil war. During these conflicts
an estimated 75,000 – 100,000 mines were laid, primarily in the Aden
and Hadramaut areas. Inexperienced soldiers and members of the militia
placed the mines, often in indiscriminate patterns with little
recording, marking, or fencing. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) of various
types and national origin is interspersed in the mined areas. By a ratio
of 10:1, the mines are anti-tank (AT) to anti-personnel (AP), and were
generally laid randomly, often in hasty defensive positions. There
has been no indication of the use of any trip wires or anti-handling
devices in the mine fields previously cleared.
Deminers at work in Yemen
The mines, in addition to their toll
in human and animal suffering, have had an incalculable effect on local
economies, both as an impediment to agriculture and through denial of
roads critical to the populace. A Level I Landmine Impact Survey was
conducted from July 1999 to July 2000 by The Survey Action Center in
conjunction with the Afghan-based Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA).
The findings and information of this report are recorded and stored on
the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). The survey
found that there are 592 mine-affected communities and 1,078 mine danger
areas, covering over 900 square kilometers. Each of the communities is
affected in its own way. The mined areas restrict access to thousands of
square kilometers of land that once was used for roads, pastures,
farmland, agriculture and water. The mined areas have also had an
incalculable negative effect on transportation, the economy,
international trade (ports) and tourism.
One of the goals of the Level I (One)
Impact Survey was to identify and differentiate between high, moderate
and lightly impacted communities. The 592 landmine-affected communities
are located in 8 governorates primarily in the south and central regions
of Yemen. The mine-affected communities tend to be grouped in clusters.
The survey identified two large clusters and several smaller ones with
residual communities dispersed across the country. There are 14
communities considered highly impacted, 84 moderately impacted, and 494
The Level I (One) Survey reports an
estimated 828,000 people live in the affected communities, of which
about 36,000 people are believed to be living in high-impact communities
and an estimated 118,000 people in medium-impact communities. The
majority live in communities that the Level I (One) Survey rated as
low-impact. Overall, Yemen has suffered 5,004 mine-related casualties,
of which 2,560 were fatal. In the past 24 months there have been at
least 178 mine victims of which 57 died. The majority of casualties were
male livestock herders.
The National Mine
While developing the training plan for
Yemen, organizational considerations were of significant importance, as
the question of donor support to military-led HD organizations was, and
continues to be, a major concern. The National Mine Action Committee (NMAC)
in Yemen is regionally unique in that it is one of the few national
programs in which the civilian and military sectors share
responsibility. The Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs chairs the
National Mine Action Committee and provides guidance regarding the
direction and scope of activity. The Minister of Defense is a member of
the committee and has the responsibility for implementing this guidance.
At the regional level, a Branch Committee exists and is composed of a
set of directors reflecting local health, transportation, and education
interests. The Branch Committee mirrors the NMAC and consolidates
regional requirements for consideration by the NMAC.
Executive Unit (NTEU)
Subordinate to the National Mine
Action Committee are the National and Regional Technical Executive Units
located in Sana’a and Aden respectively. The National and Regional
Technical Executive Units are staffed predominately by military
personnel, but have offices at each location intended for the use of
civilian ministerial representatives, NGO’s, and other donors. The
NTEU maintains responsibility for oversight of the National Demining
Training Center and the Regional Technical Executive Unit in Aden; as
well as coordination of all national demining, mine awareness and victim
assistance activities, based on the direction received from the NMAC.
Executive Unit (RTEU)
The Regional Technical Executive Unit
staff is the operational arm of the Yemeni Humanitarian Demining
Program, performing the full range of demining and demining-related
activities. It maintains command and control of the regionally assigned
demining companies and responsibility for planning, training, and
providing logistical support for all regional activities directed by the
NTEU. The RTEU, in its current form, formalizes 58-ancillary support
positions at the headquarters and Dar Saad Compound, and also added a
transportation maintenance section.
Training Center (NDTC)
NDTC, the core of Yemen demining
training, is operated through the National Technical Executive Unit and
will maintain the standards and program content. The Center is
responsible for training all Humanitarian Demining personnel, regardless
of assigned region. Additionally, it is responsible for maintaining the
currency and accuracy of course materials and will respond as required
to training requirements delivered through the NTEU. The Center is also
responsible for testing and evaluation of emerging demining technologies
for possible use in Yemen.
Action Plan For Yemen
Yemen’s vision is to
be free from the negative humanitarian and economic effects of
• At the community level, mine
accidents eliminated or reduced to a negligible rate.
• At the national level, no
significant economic activity or development project prevented by the
presence of landmines or UXO.
• The effects of mines and UXO
reduced by clearance of the most dangerous areas, and a Mine Awareness
and Marking program that will minimize the danger in other areas until
clearance can be accomplished.
Calendar Year 2001
To capitalize on the Level I (One)
Impact Survey (for which fieldwork was completed in July of 2000, with
data analysis completed in December of 2000), calendar year 2001
emphasizes Level II (Two) Technical Survey. Area reduction and clearance
will be focused on those communities that the Level I (One) Impact
Survey determined to be most at risk/affected by landmine contamination.
Two additional mine action companies will complete training by the end
of the year (200 additional personnel). A sustainable Management
Information System (IMSMA) will be fully functional and a Mine Detecting
Dog capability demonstration will begin.
Calendar Year 2002
Expansion of the program will continue
in 2002. The last of eight mine action companies, each including Mine
Awareness and Victim Assistance units, will be trained, equipped, and
deployed. Three additional Technical Survey Teams will be deployed, and
the first four operational Mine Detection Dog Teams (four dogs each)
will be fielded. A National Accreditation, Licensing and Quality
Management system will be developed to ensure compliance with
Calendar Year 2003
In 2003, four Mine Detection Dog teams
will be trained, equipped, and fielded. By the end of 2003, the program
will be fully developed with eight mine action companies, eight Survey
Teams, and eight Mine Detection Dog teams all operating under the
supervision of the NDC, the NTEU, and the RTEU.
Calendar Year 2004
Capacity development for all aspects
of Mine Action will continue. Deminers, mine awareness, surveyors,
quality assurance, and information management specialists will continue
to be trained and join the operational HD organizations.
Calendar Year 2005
By 2005 a sustainable National Mine
Action management process and organization structure will be fully
functional. Replacement of equipment, renovation of facilities and
training will continue as required.
UXO clearance and destruction.
Program Development Accomplishments
Demining Program has produced commendable results. Since the U.S. policy
decision to assist Yemen with its mine problem, the U.S. military
trained the Yemeni cadre at the National Demining Training Center (NDTC)
who now conducts initial, refresher, and safety training for all mine
action personnel. USCENTCOM, in conjunction with the Department of
State, has trained, equipped, and helped field four demining companies,
and will equip two additional companies in the late fall of 2001, with
two additional companies in 2002/03. The U.S. assisted in training and
equipping the staffs of the National (NTEU) and Regional Technical
Executive Units (RTEU). As of December 2000, the Yemen HD Program has
400 fully trained mine-survey, mine-clearance, mine-awareness, and
victim-assistance personnel organized into four mine action companies.
The NDTC has established a Mine Awareness Advisory Committee (MAAC) and
Working Groups to assist with planning and evaluation of mine awareness
and victim assistance activities. Additionally,
the U.S. renovated a significant portion of the Dar Saad Compound,
previously occupied by a Combat Engineer Battalion, which now serves as
home base to the four demining companies, the National Demining Training
Center, the newly renovated maintenance facility, and the RTEU.
National Demining Center
Regional Demining Centers
Progress as of March
Yemen cleared twenty-six mine fields
in the Aden area. Eleven mine fields, totaling 427,487 square meters,
have been turned over to the government for agricultural or
transportation use. Fourteen mine fields, totaling 675,710 square
meters, have been cleared and are awaiting quality assurance (QA) before
return to the government. Two mine fields were partially cleared to 90
percent due to drifting sand, total 129,030 square meters. A total of 192.8
square kilometers have been cleared since demining operations started in
1998. In addition, 51,647 UXO, 568 Anti-Tank Mines and 350
Anti-Personnel Mines were destroyed.
Status of Program Goal
The goal since program
inception has been to make the country mine safe in five years and mine
free in ten. The strategy includes fielding eight demining companies,
four mine detecting dog teams, and mechanical mine clearing machinery.
Yemen has not only maintained its original commitment, but exceeded all
expectations of its original pledge to demine itself. The Republic of
Yemen is well on its way to meeting its ultimate goal of a mine safe
nation. However, the nation cannot do it alone—continued donor support
*All photos courtesy
Commander Holly is a
qualified Navy SEAL with six years’ experience in EOD detachments. In
1999 he was assigned as the U.S. Navy Central Command’s program
manager for the Republic of Yemen HD effort. He holds a degree in
Environmental Management from the University of LaVern in California.
Mac Dill Air Force Base
Tel: 813 (828)-5895