The objectives of the programme “Mine Risk Education, Victim Assistance and Advocacy in Sri Lanka through UNICEF” are to provide affected communities in landmine/ explosive remnants of war (ERW) risk areas of Sri Lanka with the appropriate knowledge to protect themselves from the dangers of landmines and ERW, and to support quality rehabilitative services to survivors and other persons with disabilities. UNICEF supports school-based MRE through the Education Ministry and community-based MRE through local NGOs and mass media campaigns. The project also aims at advocating the Government of Sri Lanka to accede the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention and related legal instruments.
UNICEF-supported Mine Risk Education (MRE) is being conducted in eight districts ─ Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi and Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara ─ in collaboration with national NGOs, a volunteer and child animator network, and the Ministry of Education. Government / education staffs have been trained in MRE delivery and aid workers and service providers provided with safety briefings by UNICEF and its partners. In 2010, the Humanitarian Demining Unit through its six MRE-Units became a new MRE operator.
With regard to Victim Assistance, persons with disabilities including landmine survivors receive direct assistance through support from UNICEF and other specialized agencies in one or several of the following interventions: rehabilitative services, physiotherapy, psychosocial support including individual and group counselling or access to loans. UNICEF’s mine action programme assisted the Ministry of Social Services and INGO and NGO service providers in the north and east of Sri Lanka financially and by identifying persons in need of services and referring them to the appropriate services. Children with disabilities and caretakers with a disability are the focus. UNICEF also supported the Ministry of Health in consolidating its National Injury Surveillance System.
Advocacy for the ban of landmines aims to make Sri Lanka accede to the Antipersonnel Landmine Convention known as Ottawa Treaty. UNICEF has been facilitating the launch of a Sri Lanka Campaign to Ban Landmines. Advocacy has targeted decision makers in Government, the media and the general public at the grass root level. Prior to accession to the Convention advocacy aims at full compliance with all treaty obligations, including transparency reporting on existing mined areas and stockpiles, on victim assistance and risk reduction (demining, MRE, and other means) and the destruction of stockpiles.
Mine Risk Education
UNICEF supported MRE is conducted via 3 complementary approaches
- Community Base MRE
- School Base MRE
- Media Base MRE
Community Base MRE
National NGOs with specialised MRE facilitators have been providing MRE since 2003 with technical and material support from UNICEF. In 2010 HDU and the Police have been trained in MRE-provision. MRE should be provided regularly in all mine-infested areas – increasingly in support of local CBOs, etc. UNICEF staffs and MRE agencies are providing landmine safety training to international and national staff working in the North and East. Rapid response MRE shall be provided immediately following mine/ERW incidents. Methods for community-based MRE range from direct presentations and safety briefings to house-to-house visits; traditional media (dance, poems, storytelling etc) are popular as well as using modern media (Video-session as part of a road show for example). The use of small media, such as posters and leaflets, is a complementary measure. Sign boards and bill boards are also used.
MRE activities were also considerably expanded after the war commencing with formal MRE in the welfare centres. Currently, there are the SLA/Humanitarian Demining Unit (HDU), five national NGOs, namely EHED-Caritas, Rural Development Foundation (RDF), Sarvodaya, Social Organisation for Development (SOND) and SHADE are conducting MRE activities in Sri Lanka in support of the MA programme
School base MRE
The UNICEF supported school-based MRE programme dates back to 2003. Concerted efforts have been made in order to integrate MRE into the school curriculum in the Mine Affected areas of the North and East and more than 17,750 trained teachers and other education personnel have been equipped to teach MRE mainly in the North-East of Sri Lanka. In 2003 MRE was accepted as a supplementary module for primary and secondary levels. In 2006 a monitoring tool was developed to be implemented by ISAs and Assistant Directors of Education (ADEs) while providing (refresher) trainings to more than 600 ISAs/ADEs.
School principals from 4,499 schools have received an orientation on the MRE programme to support teachers trained in MRE and ISAs conducting monitoring. Additionally, when the principal requests an NGO to assist in providing MRE, the community-based MRE organizations and trained child animators have reached schools as well.
Progress was made to incorporate the subject into the national education curriculum as part of disaster management. Ministry and National Institute of Education officials, with UNICEF support, prepared mandatory MRE-lessons for grades 6-9 under the subject “Civic Education and Life Competencies” (under safety competencies). In January 2011, the curriculum for grades 6-9 was officially approved. Supporting the rollout of the new curriculum will be a major task for 2012
Media base MRE
Media based MRE makes particularly use of mass media, mainly radio and print. UNICEF produced numerous materials as part of its media-based MRE projects included production of a calendar, reproduction of a snakes & ladders game, and a computer game for children. The number of audio-visual materials, billboards, posters, leaflets etc produced locally and disseminated for MRE during project implementation.
Young Asia Television (YATV) to produce contextual updates of existing MRE short movies (in the three languages) with the support of UNICEF .The films have been available for public education since January 2011 and are being widely used for MRE education in the field.
KEY Results/ Outcomes
Recorded civilian mine and ERW incidents during the 12 months period from January to December 2011 is 17 incidents against 27 in the previous year. This total is fairly low – 1.41 incidents per month over 12 months - taking into account that exposure to the threat has increased with people resettling into areas affected by mines/ERW
Reports of dangerous explosive devices
Reports coming from the affected communities on unexploded and abandoned explosive ordnance (UXO and AXO) and on suspected dangerous areas (at times visually being able to identify mines) are another strong indicator of the impact of MRE. During 2011, more than 2317 suspicious items were reported by the communities and subsequently removed by SLA/HDU and de-mining agencies.