Thursday, June 26, 2003

SOMALIA: UN to extend mine clearance project
NAIROBI, 26 June 2003 (IRIN) - A UN mine-clearance pilot project in the self-declared republic of Somaliland has been so successful that it is planned to extend it to other regions of Somalia.

According to a UN Development Programme (UNDP) press statement, the project has trained and equipped two teams in the Somaliland police force.

"The squads consist of a team leader and three policemen trained in unexploded ordnance [UXO] disposal and first aid, and a commander who is in overall control," UNDP said.

They were trained for 12 months by a UN Mines Advisory Group before being deployed under their own command.

The teams, which come under the direct command of the Somaliland police commissioner, have destroyed 10,000 items of UXO and mines since they became operational in July 2002.

"What is uplifting about this specific project is that there is a sense of ownership, and Somalis themselves are excited about it," UNDP Country Director Andrea Tamagnini said. "UNDP encourages the involvement of the local administration in enhancing the local capacity for demining in the country."

By virtue of the project's success, UNDP now plans to extend it to other regions. It has already received funding from the European Commission to train two teams in the northeast (Puntland) and another two in the south, the statement said.

Landmines were extensively used in Somalia during conflicts with Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s and during the civil war in the 1990s when all sides to the conflict laid mines. Almost all regions of Somalia have been affected by mines or UXO.

The mine-clearance project, which is implemented by the UN Office of Project Services (UNOPS), is part of UNDP Somalia's 'Rule of Law and Security Programme'.

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