Mine Action in Egypt: The Landmine Struggle Center and Arabic Mine Action
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land is plagued with almost 20 million mines/UXO dating back to
government does not want to remove them without help from those
who planted them. In response, the Landmine Struggle Center and
Arabic Mine Action Campaign were formed to help those who are
by Jenny Lange, MAIC
A member of
the Al-Hawashla family carries two jugs of freshly squeezed
camel milk as morning breaks in the Bedouin village. c/o AP
Striving For Help
allocation of funds for demining are limited and are not sufficient when
looking at the scope of the problem of landmines/UXO laid throughout the
country. In February 2000, Egypt announced that mine clearance had
stopped due to a shortage of funds. But in June 2000, the Landmine
Struggle Center, a national NGO, monitored a continuation of mine
clearance conducted by the army in areas of the Western Desert for
agricultural purposes. Commercial companies near oil and other resources
also continued demining in 2000.
Egypt would like to receive help from
the countries that are responsible for planting the mines. Egyptís
Assistant Foreign Minister, Sayed el-Masri, says, "Itís a very
difficult thing. We cannot do it alone. We need the help of advanced
technology to detect these unexploded mines and we think thereís a
moral and legal responsibility upon the states who planted them."
Britain, Germany and Italy have designated money towards mine clearance,
as well as old maps to help identify mine fields. for information
on how the U.S. is helping Egypt, see "Humanitarian Demining in
Egypt" by Timothy Kennedy on page 56.
The Landmine Struggle Center (LSC) was
established December 3, 1997. The LSC is an NGO that formed because the
government lacked organizations that worked with landmines in the areas
of mine awareness, mine clearance and victim assistance. According to
the LSC website, the following are reasons why the LSC was formed:
- Landmines are obstacles in the economic
development in the north and east coast of Egypt due to the loss
of agricultural land.
- In the last 20 years, Egypt has lost 3,200 people
due to AP mines and 4,723 people have been handicapped.
- No clear, accurate maps are available for
landmine removal, and natural forces have caused the removal of
known mines to be difficult, sometimes impossible.
- No specialized first aid center has been formed
to help landmine victims.
- Vocational training programs for victims are not
- No essential information about landmines is
provided to inhabitants of mine-infested areas.
- No legal mechanism for helping the victims to
receive legal rights has been established.
- Egypt is not in any international programs that
aid countries suffering from the problem.
Four programs have been introduced
into the country by the LSC, namely the Geographical Survey Program,
Mine Awareness Program, Victim Assistance Program and Mine Clearance
The Geographical Survey Program aims
to accurately determine the areas of mine fields in order to produce
detailed maps of mine-infested areas in Egypt and assess their danger.
The program formulates statistics covering the number of casualties and
their families, details of the incidents, and any needs of the victims.
These needs are then considered by the LSC to be filled if at all
possible to help make the tragedy easier to cope with. Details about the
accident that are recorded include information about the victim,
previous casualties in the area, any nearby mine fields, and nearby
hospitals. The records made personally by the LSC about victims of
landmines help monitor the degree of danger in areas with landmines.
In 1999, the LSC recorded 57 victims.
In 2000, 34 victims were recorded, and up to September of 2001, 12
victims have been recorded. Victims do go unreported, yet Mr. Ayman
Sorour, Executive Director of the Landmine Struggle Center, says the
number of unreported victims should not be more than 10 to 15 per year.
Mine Awareness Program
Many Egyptians are unaware of the
landmine problem in their country. The LSC formed the Mine Awareness
Program in order to inform civilians about all aspects of landmines. The
program created many goals in order to help spread mine awareness
throughout Egypt. These goals include establishing a database about the
problem of landmines in Egypt, publishing reports, newsletters and
booklets about the problem of landmines and the efforts done to
eliminate the danger, providing the media with the appropriate
information, graphics and statistics in order to motivate them to focus
attention on the landmine problem, setting mine awareness signs around
mined areas, and providing workshops for citizens of Egypt about mine
During 1999 and 2000, 20 mine
awareness workshops were held in El Alamein, the site of a gruesome
battle during WWII. These workshops were deemed unsuccessful because of
the amount of people who attended them. Of the 10,000 citizens of El
Alamein, only 10 to 15 people attended each workshop. The director of
the LSC believes that communication is the main problem in getting
people to attend these workshops. Many people are unable to read or
write, especially among the Bedouin society. In the Bedouin society,
members only trust each other; they have certain customs and rules that
they follow that are hard to break into as an outsider. Those who try to
inform the Bedouins about mine awareness workshops are unsuccessful
because communicating among their group is very difficult. The LSC would
like to study communication among the Bedouin culture in order to learn
how to successfully inform them about the issues of landmines.
Victim Assistance Program
The Victim Assistance Program was
formed to directly help victims of landmine incidents. The goals of this
program are to improve the health services of landmine victims, help
handicapped victims adjust to new conditions, develop convenient first
aid for victims and participate in establishing well-equipped emergency
sections in hospitals specifically for landmine victims.
One thing the LSC has realized is that
victims are not in need of psychological help; instead they would rather
see the center help them with receiving artificial limbs. Therefore the
center has set up trust funds for landmine victims. The trust fund
directly helps victims by providing them with artificial limbs. The
victims receive direct transfer to centers that fit them with the
appropriate prosthetic limb. Last year, three victims received limbs.
Mine Clearance Program
The Mine Clearance Program was
designed to determine landmine areas and necessary efforts in clearing
these areas, to use modern technology in clearing mines from Egyptian
lands and to cooperate with local efforts in clearance programs.
Unfortunately, this program has ended due to lack of funds. Prior to the
LSC, humanitarian demining in Egypt did not exist, and it was hard to
expect a program to start. The LSC did all it could to start a program, yet
there was a lack of funding. Only the military clears mines in Egypt, and
they will only clear for two reasons: military reasons or developmental
reasons. The military funds their own projects, and the developmental
projects are funded through the project itself. Because of the limited
clearing efforts, landmines will remain in many areas. The LSC tried to
combat this issue, yet the lack of funds forced it to stop.
Arabic Mine Action Campaign
The Arabic Mine Action Campaign (AMAC) was established
in December of 1998 through a proposal by Ayman Sorour, Executive
Directorof the LSC. At the
Human Rights Defender Summit, the AMAC was proposed to all the attending
NGOs in order to raise mine awareness and mine clearance throughout many
Arabic countries. The LSC is the coordinator of the campaign. Countries
with NGOs representing them in the campaign are Iraq, Syria, Palestine,
Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Djibouti, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
and Libya. Together, these countries contain almost 60 million
Mine awareness and mine clearance is
necessary among these countries so they can solve the landmine problem
together. Because the current mine/UXO situation is difficult for
governments to deal with, the AMAC has agreed to exchange and discuss
information on a variety of topics including information about victims,
how to help raise mine awareness and mine clearance among each other,
and how to research the financial capacity of other countries to help
members of the AMAC. At the national level, the AMAC invited all Arab
countries affected by the mine/UXO problem to develop demining and mine
awareness programs, as well as to assist victims. AMAC also requested
that the Arabic countries help with the financial capacity to support both
governmental and NGO mine action programs in the Arab countries affected
by the Landmine/UXO. So far, the AMAC has been successful in raising
awareness among each other and other countries. Saudi Arabia donated
$300 million to Yemen for mine clearance, and the United Arab Emirates
donated $50 million to Lebanon for redevelopment and mine clearance.
These Arabic NGOs working together to strive for better situations among
each other is a great event and will bring much success to the landmine
situation among all of them.
It is organizations like these that
will ultimately help the problem of landmines, especially in Egypt. Time
will tell when those who are able to walk on Egyptian land will feel
safe with every step.
Mr. Ayman Sorour
Landmine Struggle Center
P.O. Box 121