Mine Risk Education
Mine risk education seeks to reduce risk-taking behaviour among people living in mine/ERW infested areas. It also aims to educate those working temporarily in or travelling to or through affected areas. Community liaison activities aim to support the demining operators and to build a community capacity enabling the local population to reduce the risk from mines and ERW. Central to the success of these activities is effective communication. Communication is the process of sharing information and understanding. It is used to inform people of dangers of mines and ERW and to demonstrate safe behaviour. MRE also uses it to create support for mine-safe behaviour among communities and leaders.
Sri Lanka is implementing a low-cost MRE approach via the national education system, via specialised national NGO staff and trained volunteers, community liaison staff among demining agencies, and MRE staff of the Humanitarian Demining Unit. The use of mass media complements these approaches. MRE should be gender and age-specific taking into account the specific local threats (village maps) and specific risk-taking behaviours and at-risk groups.
The ultimate goal is to empower communities in highly affected areas to be able to respond to the threat by educating newcomers and those most at risk on their own through local Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), schools, religious bodies and governmental entities including the Police. Governmental focal points along with volunteer community focal points supported by DS Division focal points appointed by the responsible GAs are to form the organizational structure capable of relating reports on mines/ERW to ensure swift investigation and removal/disposal.
High- and medium level affected communities/GNs and Divisions need to be able to prepare their own village threat maps and to develop a mine action plan as part of its local development planning. A professional MRE capacity has to ensure that safety messages are correct, MRE quality standards are maintained, and that educational materials are vailable and revised from time to time. MRE agencies are to provide MRE especially in lowly affected communities and divisions, to aid workers, government staff and service providers working in mine/ERW infested areas and for visitors/tourists travelling through mine/EWR infested areas. The use of mass media can compliment these efforts.
MRE links with mine/ERW clearance and also supports victim assistance and advocacy efforts. Community liaison plays a crucial role in this and aims to foster community-based risk reduction mechanisms.
The Government of Sri Lanka in 2002 asked UNICEF to act as the coordinating body for MRE in Sri Lanka. A MRE standard and a policy have been developed jointly with the Government and NGO stakeholders. MRE activities are coordinated at national and at district level with the existing mine action bodies. An accreditation mechanism is planned to go into effect in 2010.
As a result of continuous MRE in the Northern and Eastern Province, general levels of understanding the mine/ERW threat and knowing what to do in case of encountering mines, UXO or abandoned ordnance are high. Many people demonstrate mine-smart behaviour by reporting suspected dangerous devices and areas and by educating their family or community members and newcomers on the existing threat and main risk-taking behaviours. However, as many communities live close to infested or not yet fully surveyed areas the threat in some divisions remains high. Continuous MRE is needed. In addition, people from the South of the Island have started visiting the North and East and need to learn how to behave mine-smart.