HI mine clearance experts return to Casamance, Senegal
Many explosive remnants of war still endanger the lives of people living in this region in the south of Senegal and prevent internally displaced people from returning home.
An HI mine clearance expert operating a demining machine in Casamance | © HI
HI has relaunched its mine clearance activities in Casamance. These had to be interrupted more than a year ago due to a lack of funding. Between now and July, our teams plan to demine 70,000 square metres of land (the equivalent of 10 football fields) in the towns of Djibanar and Niagha, where some 22,500 people live; adding to the 400,000 square metres of land already cleared in the region since 2008.
Restoring land to communities
Twenty years after the ratification of the Ottawa treaty by Senegal, over 1.2 million square metres of land are still contaminated by anti-personnel mines and other explosive remnants of war in Casamance. This contamination dates back to the 1980s-1990s, when violent clashes occurred between the Senegalese army and Casamance independence fighters.
Contamination affects main roads, country lanes and, most importantly, a lot of farmland - a vital source of income for the region's inhabitants. Through its mine clearance activities, HI aims to restore this land to the families who own it, enabling them to return in safety, to travel freely and to farm without fear.
In the long term, these mine clearance activities aim to have a direct positive impact on the economic development of these districts and, indirectly, on the whole region. These positive changes should also encourage the return of some of the thousands of internally displaced people who fled Casamance, and who have been afraid to return home.
A historic presence
HI’s teams have been present in Senegal since 1996. They started working in Casamance in 1999, in order to provide mine casualties with physical and psychological rehabilitation care and to inform local communities on the risks associated with explosive remnants of war.
In the following years, HI implemented a large-scale survey to determine and define with people living in 82 municipalities in Casamance the areas presenting a particular risk, and those to be cleared as a priority.
In 2008, based on the results of these surveys, HI launched its first weapons clearance activities in Casamance. The organisation is, to date, the only humanitarian operator engaged in mine clearance in Senegal.