Farmers look forward to regaining their mine-free land
JABER VLLAGE/RAMTHA - For the past 35 years, Salman Awad has been unable to cultivate his land as it is heavily implanted with landmines, but he hopes to transform it into a flourishing farm in two years time.
Although he owns 77 dunums of land in Jaber village located near the border with Syria, the 68-year-old farmer has been renting a nearby plot for more than three decades to raise livestock and grow crops to make a living and feed his extended family of 50 members.
Awad is one of many Jordanians whose lands along the northern border are heavily mined. However, upon the completion of the Northern Border Project, which entails clearing mines in the area by late 2011, Awad will be able to reclaim his land.
“It is ironic that I have to rent the lands of others to earn a living, while I have my own. I cannot wait for the day to be able to enter my land safely, invest in it and raise my livestock and cultivate crops… which is the only thing I am good at,” the farmer told The Jordan Times.
The project, which started in May 2008, entails removing 136,000 anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines on an area that stretches along 104 kilometres at the border with Syria. A total of 12 teams, each comprising six members, are working on the project.
“So far, 64,000 mines have been removed and the project is going as scheduled,” Per H. Breivik, programme manager at the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), told The Jordan Times during a field visit to the site on Wednesday.
The NPA was commissioned by the National Committee for De-mining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) to execute the project.
NCDR Director Mohammad Breikat said the project will remove mines from a 10-square-kilometre area of fertile land.
“In these minefields there are 33 water wells that are not used at all by their owners. The majority of this mined land is owned by citizens and it is wasted, because the owners cannot enter their farms or grow anything. These mines are a source of danger to them, but we will clear them all under this project,” he said.
Donors and supporters of the $17 million project are Norway, Germany, Canada, Japan, the EC, Australia, the US and UNDP, according to the NCDR.
Meanwhile, Awad’s daughter-in-law, Um Mohammad, said the mine fields, located only a few metres away from her house, are a daily source of nightmares for her.
“Every time my little children go out to play in front of the house I panic and bring them inside. The yard of our house is located exactly at the fence of the minefield. This is too dangerous,” she told The Jordan Times yesterday.
“I hope this project finishes very soon so my children can play safely. I also want this project to end as my husband works as a de-miner in these minefields and that is dangerous too. I do not want anyone to be injured,” added Um Mohammad, whose village has a population of around 7,000.
No injuries were registered in the mine fields bordering Syria over the past three years, according to Breikat, who noted that there were a few injuries before the project.
The total number of victims of mines and unexploded ordnance since the 1950s stands at 898, 111 of whom died, he said, noting that 220,000 mines have been removed from several areas in Jordan to date.
During the field visit, NPA Special Adviser Yasin Majali said the project will face some financial challenges after 2010, adding that contacts have begun with donors in this regard.
Pointing to the minefield, Mousa Sqour, head of field operations at NPA, noted that “these lands can cultivate 10 times more agricultural produce than the lands on the Syrian side as they are still virgin”.
He made the comment as crop-harvesters were operating on the Syrian side of the border, while teams were removing mines on the Jordanian side.
As for Awad, he is hoping that the clearance project will be completed as fast “as the speed of wind”.
“Once I have my land back, I will turn it into heaven. I will gather all my family members and start farming my land like I used to more than 35 years ago.”
|Mine Action Milestone in Jordan
The NPA Mine Action program in Jordan has set a record in mines recovery and disposal by surpassing 100 000 mines in November 2009. This is the single largest number of mines found and recovered by any NPA MA program worldwide.
The 101 547 mines found and demolished by the NPA MA Jordan Program is the result of the accumulated number of mines found in the Wadi Araba Project and the ongoing Northern Border Project (as per November 22, 2009).
This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the NPA Mine Action Staff in Jordan. The NPA Head office congratulates and commends this great feat.
In 2006, the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) invited NPA to become the first international de mining entity to work in Jordan. NPA was then tasked with clearing the landmines laid by Israel on the border in Wadi Araba and Aqaba.Following the success of the Wadi Araba project, NPA was tasked with the clearance of all landmines on Jordan’s border with Syria, the last known stretch of minefields in Jordan
We thank our our generous donors who made our work possible;: Norway, Germany, Japan, Canada, EC, Finland, Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZA).
One year anniversary for NPAs all-female demining team in Jordan!
12th of October 2008, a group of women in Jordan began what seemed at the time as an impossible task.
One year later we celebrate the anniversary of an exceptional performance by a team of 10 female deminers. NPA is proud to mark this day, and congratulates the amazing women of NPA’s first all-female demining team in Jordan.
Director of the Mine Action Department,
Norwegian People’s Aid
Asma Qweimani, one of the Jordanian deminers in our all female team has written some words to illustrate this feat, and her thoughts around this one year mark.
By Asma Qweimani
is story began as a dream which turned into an idea that finally became reality on October 12th 2008, the first day of training. Everyone said it was impossible, no one believed that women could do it. Even as we began and completed the training, it was said that this was just an experiment.
But then, we started working on our first minefield, Sabha 7. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I cried and felt that this was the hardest day of my life. Our team leader at the time, Riad Khalidi got very upset when he saw my tears, I still remember his words: – Asma, be patient, today is just the beginning, everything will be ok. I don’t want to see failure in your eyes; I know you can do it.
At the end of those first days, when looking at our productivity we felt like failures, the productivity was low and no one can imagine how disappointed we were. Every day on our way back home on the bus, one of us would say, today was my last day, I am not coming back tomorrow – but we all came back, the next day and every day after that, until we reached Akhaider 4.
I will never forget how terrifying these first days in the minefield were. I will never forget the tears. Akhaider 4, our second task, was impossibility itself. But today, after a lot of effort, many challenges, evening shifts, the hot desert, the loneliness and sense of complete isolation when working the last lane in a field, with no one else in sight, except for another female de miner working the access lane, Akhaider 4 became possible. We did it! And we will do much more! We, the female de miners are able to do a lot, not only in demining but in every struggle and challenge that women face in their lives. We are now women who insist on proving themselves in a society that believes that woman are weak. Becoming a de miner was not easy, it was very hard, but as much as it was hard, it made me STRONG enough to face my life and challenges alone.
This is how demining changed me
|Norwegian People’s Aid Concludes Basic Training Course. 67 Mafraq Locals Recruited for the Northern Border Mine Clearance Project
Jaber / Mafraq. 67 new recruits from the Mafraq Governorate have joined the ranks of NPA deminers on 4 May 2009 after successfully completing a training course in manual demining.
The new recruits are the third group of deminers to join NPA’s North Border Project which employs more than 200 people from the local population. “Our initial selection procedures are quite strict,” says NPA Project Manager Heinie Truter says, “involving medical and psychological checkups to ensure the candidates’ medical and mental fitness to do the job at hand.” The course started with 70 trainees, but only 67 successfully graduated and were offered employment by NPA.
Conducted to reinforce NPA’s capacities for its Northern Border Mine Clearance Project, the one-month training course ensured that new deminers are fully qualified to recognize and expect the presence of a landmine, recover it, and diffuse and dispose of it safely. “Previous demining experience, while an asset is not a requirement in a new recruit”, says Musa Sqour, NPA Operations Coordinator. “We look for commitment, dedication and strict adherence to standard operating procedures.”
Consistent with NPA’s commitment to contribute to the improvement of the living standards of the local populations, the new deminers, and most field personnel were selected from the communities close to the minefields under Northern Border Project. The multiplier effect of these employment opportunities and income generating activities for the small border towns will be a significant spin-off of the project.
In November 2008, NPA in Jordan formed the first female demining team in the Middle East.
The Northern Border Mine Clearance Project started in April 2008 and is expected to end in 2011. Funded by Norway, Canada, Japan , the EC and Germany, the project runs along 10 4 Km containing 9 3 confirmed minefields on Jordan’s borders with Syria, and constitutes the last challenge for Jordan in becoming completely free of landmines.
The Northern Border Project is NPA’s second mine clearance project in Jordan. NPA was invited in Jordan by the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation in 2006, to clear the 126 Israeli- laid minefields between the Red and the Dead Sea in Wadi Araba/ Aqaba. The project began in July 2006 and was completed at the end of May 2008, releasing around 14 million square meters of suspect hazardous areas, and removing over 50,000 landmines.The project employed 150 people of the local population in Wadi Araba.
Note for the editor: The Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) is a non-governmental organization that was established in Norway in 1939. Its main aims are to advocate for the strengthening of the rights of civilians to protection from unacceptable risks in conflicts, both in terms of follow‐up of the implementation of the Mine Ban Convention and leadership in the campaign to ban cluster munitions; to carry out mine clearance programs in countries with landmines and ERWs; strengthen the capacity of national authorities and other partners; and to develop new technical and operational approaches to humanitarian mine clearance. It currently has mine action programs in 14 countries.
Kingdom granted three-year extension of its mine-clearance deadline
By Dalya Dajani
AMMAN - The Kingdom was granted a three-year extension of its mine-clearance deadline after stating earlier this year that it would be unable to meet the May 2009 target and requesting a new deadline of May 1, 2012.
Jordan, a signatory of the Mine Ban Convention, was granted approval for its request during the 9th Meeting of State Parties to the Ottawa Convention (9MSP) in Geneva, which concluded on Friday.
Besides Jordan, Britain, Chad, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe were also granted extensions.
States Parties to the Ottawa Convention were asked to consider Jordan’s request and vote to approve the request based on the recommendations made by a 17-country analyzing committee.
Under Article 5 of the 1999 treaty, state parties are obliged to clear and destroy landmine's on territories under their jurisdiction in not later than 10 years. Exceptions, however, are made in cases where countries provide justifiable reasons for the extension and solid plans on what they will be doing to meet the next deadline.
Implementation challenge for Jordan included 60 million square meters of suspected hazardous areas, approximately 500 minefields and around 305,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.
HRH Prince Mired, chairman of the National Center for De-mining and Rehabilitation (NCDR), who returned from the 9MSP yesterday, said Jordan had made tremendous progress in removing thousands of landmine's since 1993, but various challenges had hindered its ability to meet the original deadline.
In a presentation made available to The Jordan Times, the Prince outlined several of these challenges, which include lack of funding as well as the training needed to carry out mine clearance both safely and efficiently.
The Prince noted that although the Royal Engineer Corps (REC) had done a good job leading the country's mine-clearance activities between 1993-2004, it lacked the technical and financial capacities to achieve the level of progress needed.
Subsequently, "potential outputs that could have been produced by the REC were greatly reduced", the Prince said, adding that the establishment of the NCDR in 2004 helped streamline the country's mine action efforts.
Since then, "the NCDR has been working with the various line-ministries, international donor community and the UNDP and benefited in increased capacity and delivery of mine-action results", he noted.
He also cited the difficulties posed by extreme flooding and erosion in the Jordan Valley as having slowed the de-mining process. Given the proximity of populations to the minefields in the Valley, the Prince said the REC took extra precautions - sometimes excavating up to three meters of shifted soil - to ensure all mines were located along the river bank and in the fertile floodplain's that are used for agriculture by small landholders.
In its official report for the extension request, Jordan also cited the northern border mine-clearance project, which was left until the end due to the complex and difficult nature of the task.
The report noted that the high volume of landmine's and erratic mine-laying patterns had led the country to delay work, which had to be viewed in conjunction with the emplacement of an alternative border security system - the details of which have since been finalized.
The Prince said he was confident the Kingdom would be able to meet the new deadline.
"What we believe makes Jordan’s case a strong one is that the key elements for completion are present," the Prince said in his presentation.
"The required approvals have been secured, finances raised, most material assets in-place, and detailed work plans formulated for execution," he added.
He also noted that the NCDR's strong network of local and international partnerships will ensure the country meets its clearance obligations within the time requested.
Jordan's mines date back to the 1948 partition of Palestine, the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, internal conflicts in the early 1970s and hostilities with Syria in 1975.
The REC was first to begin de-mining activities in the Kingdom and in 2006 the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) Mine Action Programme became the second operator in the country.
Prince Mired told state parties that nearly 130,000 anti-personnel mines had been cleared between 1993 and 2008, freeing 16 million square meters of land for agricultural and economic development and reducing the threat on nearby civilian populations.
He added that over the past two years, the REC and NPA collectively lifted 79,545 mines and cleared an area of 14.9 million square meters
The 104km long mine belt along Jordan's border with Syria, contains approximately 136,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines spread over approximately 10 million square meters Over 11,000 mines have already been removed.
Prince Mired said the NCDR is making sure that minefields and other suspected hazardous areas meet international standards by undergoing further verification. He explained that random sampling and verification, as well as a desk assessment and review of the 276 minefields cleared by REC in the early 1990s will be undertaken.
The 9MSP brought together hundreds of government, international agencies and civil society representatives to evaluate progress made in implementing the treaty’s provisions.
A total of 156 countries have signed and ratified the convention, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.
The convention, which was signed in Ottawa, Canada, on December 3, 1997 and came into force two years later, is designed to end the suffering and casualties caused by mines by achieving universal acceptance of a ban on anti-personnel mines, destruction of stockpiled mines, clearance of mined areas, and provision of assistance to mine victims.
More than 40 million landmine's have been destroyed since then, thousands of square miles of contaminated land have been de-mined and the global trade in these weapons has virtually ceased.
Despite the progress made over the past decade, landmine's are still present in 70 countries and kill around 6,000 people a year, according global landmine reports.
Landmine Monitor estimates that there are more than 250 million anti-personnel mines in the arsenals of 105 nations with the biggest estimated to be China (110 million), Russia (60-70 million), Belarus (10-15 million), United States (11 million), Ukraine (10 million), Pakistan (6 million), and India (4-5 million).
Defying the norms, 24 women graduate as Middle East’s first female de-miners
By Dalya Dajani
MAFRAQ - The silver four-wheel drive makes its way along the road into Jaber, an impoverished border town of featureless homes, olive groves and children playing in the streets. A middle-aged woman hanging her laundry and another puttering about in her garden glance at the car whizzing past, but get on with their business.
Residents of this neighborhood have seen an unusual level of activity recently. Busloads of women have been passing through early each morning to a normally nondescript field down the road. But they are not there to pick olives or gather crops, as is normal for many working women. They are doing something far more challenging and perhaps even a little controversial for this traditionally conservative community.
Standing with a rake in her hand in this field, Kifah Sarhan, 36, is training to be a de-miner. She positions herself and scrapes back the red soil in swift, rapid movements, then pauses and kneels down to measure the depth of the plot.
"It is hard work," says Sarhan, the sweat trickling down her face.
"There's a lot to remember and guidelines to follow and the work has to be just right," she adds.
A few meters away, a team of de-mining instructors from Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) observes the work being done by Sarhan and 37 other women in their second week of de-miner training. Just like Sarhan, the others are also keen to pass the six-week course.
NPA instructors make their instructions quite clear. Safety and quality are the two main factors guiding their selection of potential de-miners they plan to recruit for mine-clearance operations under way in the north.
The project aims to clear 93 minefields on a 104-kilometre stretch along the country's northern border. Ninety-five men have already been trained and deployed for the three-year project, which began in April and is funded by the European Commission, Norway, Canada, Japan and Germany.
In a community where few jobs other than farming or teaching are available to women, this was a striking change. But it was a challenge that few girls were willing to pass up, as 21-year old Walaa Al Andali explained.
"Women don't get many work opportunities here, let alone ones that are usually meant for men, but it's also a challenge and we can do something for ourselves in the end," she said.
For Andali, who never completed high school and desperately wants to open her own beauty salon, making it through to the end of the six-week training was essential.
The women take home JD50 each per week during the training period, but will be paid JD540 per month, as well as social security and health insurance, for the duration of their employment in the project.
In an area where unemployment stands at 37 per cent and the average annual household income is JD900, it is a very good deal.
The NPA, which also has female de-miners working in its operations in Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola, Croatia and the former Kosovo, decided to take the same step here. Around 50 women between the ages of 20 and 36 came forward and along with their families were briefed on the project, which included a tour of actual de-mining operations in the northern minefield. Only 42 chose to continue and a strict preliminary selection process winnowed that down to 38 women, who began the basic de-miner training programmed. The second stage of selection left 24 women to complete the training who graduated yesterday, becoming the first all-female de-mining team in the Middle East. Norwegian Ambassador Mette
Ravne, whose government supported the creation of the team, as well as Mafraq and NPA officials, attended the ceremony.
The women have shown immense resilience since they began their training in October, which not only tested their physical limits and competency, but at times their self-esteem as they made their way in a field previously dominated by men.
Recalling their first week of training where they had to struggle through a three-hour raking exercise, they said it was "too hard" and they were "exhausted". Some mumbled that they were not coming back the following day, others were sure they would never pass.
Then there were the critical comments made by some men in the area.
Several said they had been taunted by males in their neighborhood while waiting for the bus every morning.
"They'd say, oh you're the girl de-miners? What would you know about landmines? You're just girls. You don't belong there," one trainee said.
Some of those attitudes were even expressed by their own family members. One of them was Andali's brother, a military guard. "He used to taunt me, saying it’s a man's job. But I have already proved capable and that's enough for me," she said.
While de-mining is still widely considered a male-dominated occupation, more women have been joining this field in recent years. According to NPA programmed manager in Jordan, Stephen Bryant, gender mainstreaming in mine-clearance has been growing worldwide as women prove just as capable as their male counterparts.
"De-mining statistics throughout the world have shown that while female de-miners may be slower than their male counterparts, their work is more thorough and in some areas, consistently improves upon the standards set by the male de-miners," said Bryant.
He added that the NPA's main criteria are safety and quality and that "it is a simple question of ensuring that no one person is in a situation that they are not trained to deal with”.
Bryant said he is confident that the female de-miners here are ready to enter the minefields safely and that 16 of the women who graduated will be deployed immediately, while the remainder will start at the end of February after some refresher training.
For Sarhan, the job has come just in time.
The mother of three, who only several weeks ago was worrying whether she would pass the training, has been staying with relatives since her bedridden husband could no longer afford to pay for their own home. She is desperate to provide one for her children.
"I want to put a roof over my children's heads before I leave this earth. That's all I need," she said.
Mariam Dolghom, too, will now be able to help her family. The 29-year old girl, who begins her first day of actual de-mining today, said their house went into foreclosure seven months ago after they were unable to pay the JD70 monthly mortgage payment. She also has three sisters at university she plans to support.
For 23-year-old Fida Ghassab, who also graduated Tuesday, the job has a personal significance. Her father lost his leg after he stepped on a landmine over 30 years ago.
"It was difficult time for my family. He struggled with his injury for many years and it broke his spirit," she said.
"He couldn't afford a prosthetic limb at the time, but we all helped him get through it," Ghassab added.
The young girl said being able to spare even one family from going through what her family suffered would make all her hard work worth it.
80 Mafraq residents recruited for Northern Border Mine Clearance Project
By Dalya Dajani
AMMAN (JT) - Eighty new recruits from Mafraq Governorate have joined the ranks of Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) deminers after successfully completing a training course in manual de-mining.
The graduates are now set for deployment at the Northern Border Mine Clearance Project, which started in April and should be completed by May 2012, according to an NPA statement.
Funded by Norway, Canada, Japan, the EC and Germany, the project covers 94km of confirmed minefields on the northern border and constitutes the last challenge for Jordan in becoming completely free of landmines, the statement said.
The new recruits are the first group of de-miners to join NPA’s northern border project, which will train and employ around 200 people from the local population.
“Our initial selection procedures are quite strict, involving medical and psychological checkups to ensure the candidates’ medical and mental fitness to do the job at hand,” said NPA Project Manager Heinie Truter.
“The course started with 120 trainees, but only 80 successfully graduated and were offered employment by NPA,” Truter added.
Conducted to reinforce NPA’s capacities for its Northern Border Mine Clearance Project, the one-month training course ensured that new de-miners are fully qualified to recognize and expect the presence of a landmine, recover it, and diffuse and dispose of it safely.
Delivered by sector coordinators and experienced de-miners who worked in NPA’s Wadi Araba/Aqaba Project, the course included extensive training on minefield patterns, marking systems, the use of de-mining tools, vegetation cutting, site preparation, de-mining drills, first aid and casualty evacuation procedures.
The new recruits will be monitored closely and individuals showing potential will receive advanced training that would enable them to assume higher positions within the teams, the statement said.
“Previous de-mining experience, while an asset, is not a requirement in a new recruit,” NPA Operations Coordinator Musa Sqour said.
“What we look for is commitment, dedication and strict adherence to standard operating procedures. Our ultimate priority is the safety of our de-miners,” he added.
Consistent with NPA’s commitment to raise the capacity and contribute to the improvement of local residents’ living standards, the new deminers and most field personnel were selected from communities close to the minefields under Northern Border Project.
The multiplier effect of these employment opportunities and income-generating activities for the small border towns will be a significant spin-off of the project, according to the NPA.
“My job as a de-miner with Norwegian People’s Aid will provide me with an excellent steady income, in addition to the fact that this project will make this area safer for people in my village, which has witnessed several mine accidents among the local population,”said new de-miner Mohammad Al Sarhan, whose home is less than one kilometer away from the minefields.
Remaining mines stark threat to life, development
By Dalya Dajani
MAFRAQ - It was supposed to be a day filled with fun when the school bus arrived at the Dead Sea on that fateful morning in 1988. Enjoying the beach with his schoolmates, Bilal Momani recalled standing on the shore when things took a tragic turn.
“We were on the beach when we heard a tremendous explosion and the ground shook beneath our feet,” Momani said.
“All I can remember is fear and confusion… later I realized that I had lost my foot in the explosion,” he added.
At a time when landmines were barely a blip on the national radar, the accident was beyond anything the then-13-year-old Momani could have ever imagined. Before the accident, he did not even know what a landmine was.
At a ceremony on Monday to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action in the remote northern desert town of Jaber, Momani’s tale was a stark reminder of the danger landmines pose to Jordanians.
In an area where some 136,570 landmines remain an indiscriminate threat to unsuspecting victims like Momani, his story could not have been more poignant for area residents who face daily risk.
A largely underprivileged area of some 69,000 people with limited prospects, Mafraq is home to around 10.5 million square meters of mine-affected lands, a serious obstacle for residents who make their living off cattle raising and agriculture.
The presence of mines has also hampered development plans for the area, which was announced as a special development zone.
The area’s fortunes, however, are about to change as a new mine clearance operation aimed at clearing a 104-kilometre mine belt along the border with Syria officially began last week.
The mission, set to clear 93 minefields in the area in less than three years, is being led by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) with the help of around 100 residents-turned-de-miners from the local community. The estimated $13 million task is being managed by the National Committee for De-mining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) while the Royal Engineering Corps (REC) will be responsible for constructing the replacement border security system.
Members of the international donor community, officials and representatives of the diplomatic corps yesterday had a chance to hear about the North Border Mine Clearance Project - the last remaining mine clearance task for the country.
Mafraq Governor Zaid Zureikat said the mine-plagued northern area, particularly along the country’s border with Syria poses risks to both the local communities and development plans.
“The threat to the residents in this area is immense,” Zureikat said.
“We have seen a large number of victims due to the close proximity of these mines to inhabited areas… mine clearance will be important to remove that threat and allow development projects to flourish,” he added.
During last year’s celebrations in Um Jimal, the NCDR launched the Mine Risk Education Programme under which 20,000 people were given a better understanding about mine risks.
In November last year, the NPA began a technical survey in preparation for the mine clearance task.
NPA Secretary General Petter Eide told The Jordan Times that mine clearance operations could not have been more important for both people and the country.
He explained that even the smallest number of mines in any area can pose a major impediment to communities’ future development.
“Jordan is a great example of a country trying to address its problem with the cooperation of all, including the people directly impacted by mines,” Eide said.
“As we see in other affected countries, even a few landmines in a huge area can create a big problem,” he added.
The NPA official, who is part of a tour to the Kingdom and Lebanon, said the political consensus to rid the country from mines was not only a success story for the people of the country but also relations with its neighbours.
“It shows that it is possible to have a humanitarian solution to conflict and peaceful relation building with others,” Eide added.
Eide noted that directly involving the local community in mine clearance does not only help heighten their awareness of mines but also teaches them how to deal with the dangers they pose.
NCDR Board Chairman HRH Prince Mired, who has been a driving force behind mine action efforts in the Kingdom, yesterday spoke of the threat mine-affected communities face worldwide.
The Prince said the threat was wide-ranging, reaffirming that the presence of mines in the north are “stunting the social and economic growth of the area”.
The Prince commended the hard work and dedication of all those involved in mine action as well as the international community’s support to Jordan’s mine clearance goals.
Several activities were held on the sidelines of the event yesterday, among which were songs performed by girls from two local schools, a mine action exhibit by the REC and a visit to active minefields in the area arranged for the international donor community.
A tremendous amount of international support has been provided to date to fund the northern border mine clearance project from a consortium of six international donors, namely Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Germany, Japan and Norway.
Norwegian Ambassador Mette Ravn, whose country has been a major supporter of mine action in Jordan, said she was happy to assist the Kingdom address its landmine problem.
UNDP Resident Representative Muna Hider also commended the strides Jordan has made in addressing the epidemic, adding it was planning to ramp up efforts to secure sustainable human development.
Although tragic, Momani’s accident became a test of endurance rather than a call for sympathy.
Nearly 20 years later, he uses his example to raise others’ awareness of mine dangers and the need to clear the world of these weapons.
Back in 2000, the Landmine Survivors Network (LSN) lent its hand to Momani, providing him with health insurance and JD400 to support his electronic maintenance shop and employing his services as a photographer at one of their events.
As part of his community service, Momani carried out electronic maintenance work for a local club in Ajloun. After helping him upgrade his shop, LSN referred him to NCDR where he was trained to help raise community awareness on the risks of mines.
“The NCDR has changed my life by offering me a job as a provider of Mine Risk Education in mine-affected communities,”
“I now have a career helping other people by warning them of the risk of landmines and other explosive remnants of war and protect them from suffering the same fate as mine,” he added.
Cleared minefields provide hope to local community
By Dalya Dajani
AQABA - It has been a tough 18 months for Adnan Salem, labouring in the blistering heat of the Wadi Araba desert to remove the area’s deadly remnants of war.
Clad in a protective blue vest and visor, the 34-year old, however, is undeterred as he gazes at the parched plains envisaging the possibilities ahead.
“This is our home, our land,” Salem said, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead.
“We’ve worked long and hard to remove landmines from this area and the job is as good as done. It is a blessing.”
Here, along Jordan’s border with Israel where some 56,000 landmines were planted during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, a new chapter of hope has been steadily emerging from beneath the desert sands.
Once a killing field that hindered development and safe passage for local communities, the nearly 1.5 million square meters of land between the Dead Sea and Red Sea port of Aqaba was recently cleared at the hands of 100 residents-turned deminers from the nearby village of Al Risha.
Led by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) over the past 20 months with no reported injuries, the mission has made possible a promising future for this impoverished southern community.
For farmers and residents with limited resources and jobs, the newly restored minefields mean safe access to agricultural lands for cultivation and grazing.
Initiatives such as a hydroelectricity project, the proposed Red-Dead canal, and the multimillion dollar Ayla Oasis are but a few examples of investment opportunities in the area.
In addition, it makes the riverbed along the country’s border with Israel accessible, regarded as important for agriculture, manufacturing and service industries.
For Salem, who was among those recruited and trained by the NPA for mine clearance and paid JD500 monthly with health insurance, the task was a valuable opportunity to help his community.
“Apart from a few random odd jobs, most area residents have little else to go by. It is pitiful,” said the father of two.
“This job is more than I could have ever imagined,” he told The Jordan Times.
In 2006, the National Center for De-mining and Rehabilitation (NCDR), identified the need for a civilian-based de-mining capacity in the south as crucial to meet its mine-clearance targets and set its target for demining in both Aqaba and Wadi
Araba, with the NPA as its main implementing partner.
Last week, the NPA provided the media with a glimpse of the work undertaken by these de-miners in Wadi Araba, where verification of cleared land is currently under way using manual and mechanical tools as well as mine detection dogs (MDD's).
Part of quality management control, such confirmation ensures all mines have been cleared and accounted for, especially those which may have been disturbed either by flooding or moved by animals.
In the distance, clouds of dust billowed from behind a mini mine-wolf machine scouring the rough terrain at the foot of a mountain, where landmines could be buried.
Heinie Truter, project manager of NPA’s Mine Action Programme in Jordan, pointed to traces of water channels visible on the mountain side as a possible indicator of their location, noting that the machine will destroy any landmines which may have settled in the area below.
Once the NPA completes its verification in May, the NCDR will conduct its own sample check.
Although the acquisition of minefield records from Israel made the mine-clearance task in the south easier, the effort has been complex.
NPA Programme Manager in Jordan Stephen Bryant said the entire process is carried out under a controlled environment to ensure the job is done efficiently and effectively.
As in other mine-affected countries where the NPA has conducted community-based mine clearance, the approach is regarded as practical and beneficial, offering economic benefits to residents and creating a sense of “ownership” in solving the problem, according to Bryant.
The task also requires discipline, courage and commitment.
“It doesn’t get easier, no matter how many times you enter a minefield,” Salem explained.
“But anxiety is a good thing, because the real danger is entering a minefield full of confidence, which can be fatal,” he added.
But Salem has no intention of leaving his risk-laden job and returning home.
As the NPA puts the finishing touches on its work in the south, some 50 de-miners including Salem are getting ready to join the country’s upcoming de-mining challenge at the northern border.
Bryant said the project, which will clear 7 million square meters of land along a 104km mine-belt will begin “soon”.
A technical survey has been under way in the area since November and the NPA will be transferring its equipment and personnel there soon, he said.
Eventually, a total of 220 staff will be involved in the project, which will deploy around 100 de-miners, two mini mine-wolf machines and 12 MDD's.
Unlike the dogs in the south, who were brought in at the last stage of operations for the verification process, those in the north will actively be involved in mine clearance operations alongside de-miners and the machines, MDD coordinator. Damir Atikovic said.
During the press tour, a roundtable held by ASEZA, Ayla and Movenpick Hotel, provided further insight into new developments slated for Al Risha.
Norwegian Ambassador to Jordan Mette Ravn, who has been closely following the country’s mine-clearing activities, commended the mission, particularly its impact on local communities.
She noted that Norway’s financial contribution to mine action in Jordan has totaled $21 million since 1999.
Meanwhile, Faraj Audeh, another de-miner from Al Risha slated to join the mission in the north, is upbeat.
The 43-year-old father of four, who has lived on a pension since retiring from the army, said he was “looking forward to the upcoming task”.
But Salam Jadaan’s excitement was more palpable.
For the 22-year old, who had been job hunting since completing his Tawjihi, his recruitment was a rare opportunity.
He recounted his mother’s fierce opposition before he joined the de-mining team in the south.
“She tried to talk me out of it, fearing for my safety, but soon settled down,” he said.
“It’s a job that pays more than we could have ever imagined and we’ve been trained to do it well. What more could I ask for?”
Prince Mired commends NPA assistance in mine clearance
AMMAN (JT) - Programme and operation managers as well as senior technical advisers from several Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) programmes all over the world are meeting in the Kingdom this week to discuss best practices and challenges faced by their respective programmes.
HRH Prince Mired Ben Raad, chairman of the National Committee for De-mining and Rehabilitation (NCDR), who opened the NPA’s 4th Global Operations meeting in Jaber-Mafraq on Monday, highlighted the NCDR’s close working partnership with the NPA.
“With the support of many donor countries, NPA has assisted Jordan in dealing with its landmine problem over the course of the last two years and will continue to do so for some years to come. We are very pleased that the NPA operations meeting is taking place in Jordan and hope that the success that has been achieved here in Jordan can be replicated elsewhere,” the Prince said in his opening address.
Participants in the five-day annual operations meeting, which was previously held in Sri Lanka, Croatia and Sweden, are scheduled visit the two operational sites of the NPA-Mine Action Programme in Jordan in Jaber and Wadi Araba, according to an NPA statement.
In 2005, the NCDR asked NPA to assist the government in meeting its obligation to the Mine Ban Treaty, so that landmines would no longer impact com munities or impede further social and economic developments.
NPA was tasked with clearing all landmines in the border area between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, the statement said.
With funding from Norway, Finland, Japan, Germany and the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, the project started in August 2006 and will be completed in the coming months, releasing two million square metres of previ ously hazardous land and removing 56,000 landmines in the process.
In July 2007, NPA was also tasked with clearing all land mines laid long the northern border. Funding for the project, which will cover 94km of confirmed minefields and take around three years to complete, has been secured so far from Norway, Japan and Canada, according to the NPA statement.
Since starting its operations in Jordan, NPA has been working in full partnership with the NCDR, and in close cooperation with the Royal Engineering Corps of the Jordan Armed Forces.
“This highly effective working relationship is one of the distinctive features of the Jordan programme… one of NPA’s most important programmes in the world and the largest in the region,” the statement said.
In addition, within the context of NPA’s mission to improve the conditions of the local populations, the Jordan programme has trained around 150 individuals from the Wadi Araba area to take part in mine clearance operations.
Several of those deminers will be deployed as supervisors in the northern border project, under which around 200 Mafraq residents will be trained to become de-miners.
NPA currently has 110 staff in Jordan, 90 of them field staff, while the programme has two permanent international staff members and a varying number of consultants on short-term appointments.
Established in Norway in 1939, NPA is a nongovernmental organisation that advocates strengthening the rights of civilians to protection from unacceptable risks in conflicts, both in terms of follow-up of the implementation of the Mine Ban
Convention and leadership in the campaign to ban cluster munitions.
It currently has mine action programmes in 14 countries.