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GAZA: MAG proud of achievements in reducing risks posed by UXO

An aircraft bomb in Gaza

An aircraft bomb in the Gaza Strip in early 2009.

After nearly two years working in Gaza to minimise the risks posed to civilians by unexploded ordnance (UXO), MAG’s team of experts have ended their operations.

Since January 2009, MAG has assessed 2,132 residential and agricultural sites for the presence of lethal UXO, responded to more than 250 requests for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) support, and safely identified 360 items of UXO and 2,100 small arms ammunition.

During this time MAG also pioneered a technique for the safe disposal of white phosphorous projectiles, destroying all the 95 artillery shells that it located.

Achievements in Gaza

Geraldine Kelly, Country Programme Manager for MAG’s Gaza operations said: “I am hugely proud of what MAG has achieved in Gaza, in what has been a challenging but rewarding programme.

“As the only specialist mine action non-governmental organisation [NGO] working in Gaza we have achieved a great deal.

MAG technician in Gaza

A MAG technician (right) briefs UN drivers on routes to be assessed and general safety at the Erez Crossing in the northern end of the Gaza Strip, January 2009.
[Photo: NPA]

"Some of the highlights of our work have been the huge amount of people we’ve reached through our Risk Education sessions, our expert destruction of the white phosphorous shells, which are difficult to dispose of safely due to the volatile nature of the chemicals they contain, and our assessment of 45 schools that we were able to declare safe in time for children to begin lessons at the start of term.

“It’s important to note that none of this could have been achieved without the commitment of our international and Palestinian staff in Gaza, and the support of our partners, the UN, Global Medic and MSB [the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency], as well as the rest of the NGO community here. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them.”

Emergency response

MAG began work in Gaza as a response to the emergency generated by Operation Cast Lead, which saw the scale and type of UXO contamination in Gaza significantly expand as a result of the 23-day bombardment by land, air and sea.

Even before the ceasefire, two of MAG's most senior technical experts went to Gaza to provide specialist advice to the emergency response, along with representatives from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

They checked schools, health facilities and main transport routes for UXO contamination, greatly helping to facilitate the delivery of aid by the UN and development community in the immediate aftermath of the conflict.

Implementing partner of UNMAS

Since the emergency phase, MAG has been working in Gaza as the implementing partner of UNMAS (United Nations Mine Action Service), who, together with medical support from Global Medic and MSB (the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency), form the UN Mine Action Team – Gaza Office (UNMAT – GO).

Under this structure, MAG’s five operational teams of EOD experts were tasked by the UN to respond to requests for checks on suspected hazardous areas and safely identify and remove items of UXO. In addition, MAG also provided continuous support to the UNDP led Rubble Removal Programme as part of the UNMAT – GO.

Educating vulnerable people about the risks

MAG has also worked to raise awareness of the scale and type of contamination, and actively sought to change risk-taking behaviours amongst vulnerable groups, such as those communities located in or near the buffer zone along the border, and contractors working on the UNDP Rubble Removal Programme. As part of this work MAG conducted 243 UXO safety awareness sessions to more than 5,300 beneficiaries.

Children in Gaza, early 2009

Children at Tal el Hawwa school in Gaza City benefitted from MAG’s work.

A second Risk Education project saw MAG working in partnership with UNICEF to train 751 teachers and 290 community workers in Gaza to be able to deliver risk education to school children and care-givers throughout the territory, ensuring that the safety messages reached as wide an audience as possible.

As this project ends MAG would like to thank its partners at the UNMAT-GO and the following donors who have supported it work in Gaza:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), United Nations Office For Project Services (UNOPS), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

2 December 2010


MAG in Gaza - key activities

2009

January - May: Emergency UXO response

Assessing, surveying and clearing UXO in Gaza. The following was achieved in the period:

• Forty-five schools assessed for UXO contamination and declared safe, enabling them to be opened in time for the school term;
• Eight route assessments conducted and were declared impact free allowing emergency relief items to be transported without concern of accident;
• Thirty-five safety briefings delivered to 21 agencies, reaching 405 beneficiaries;
• Risk assessments completed, allowing Rubble Removal project to commence on 204 buildings

June onwards: Early recovery

Minimising the threat and impact of UXO contamination. Support to UNDP Rubble Removal Programme begins, which aims to reduce the threat to public health through the clearance and safe removal of UXO.

MAG conducted risk assessments, EOD support and safety briefings for identified at risk groups.

MAG conducted the following types of safety briefings:
• General UXO safety awareness training to development agencies and NGOs;
• 'Training of Trainers' programme for UXO safety awareness;
• Level 1 Rubble Removal - Basic UXO awareness and safe work practice aimed at people employed in the rubble removal process;
• Level 2 Rubble Removal - Advanced training for safe site management. Aimed at site supervisors, foreman and those involved in heavy machinery rubble removal.

2010

March - May: White phosphorous destruction

UNMAT–GO develops structure at the Central Demolition Site (CDS) to destroy WP and carries out the destruction of 95 WP artillery shells.

July - December: UNICEF UXO Risk Education project

MAG implements a project for UNICEF to train 800 teachers and 400 community workers to deliver UXO risk education to children and care givers through out the Gaza Strip.


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MAG (Mines Advisory Group) saves and improves lives by reducing the devastating effects armed violence and remnants of conflict have on people around the world.
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Co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize  |  Registered as a charitable company in the UK  |  Company no: 4016409  Charity no: 1083008  |  ISO 9001:2008 accredited  |  International Mine Action Standards compliant  |  Signatory of the ICRC Code of Conduct  |  Member of the Fundraising Standards Board scheme  |  Registered office: Suite 3A, South Central, 11 Peter Street, Manchester, M2 5QR, United Kingdom