Since its independence, Myanmar has seen a heavy and protracted conflict between its government and non-state actors. This conflict is characterized by fighting as well as a regular use of landmines, most of which are placed in the border areas.
In addition to landmine contamination, Myanmar also has a high quantity of explosive remnants of war (ERW) dating back as far as to the Second World War.
Landmines and ERW contamination have been confirmed in approximately 50 townships (out of 325 townships in the country) and in 10 States and Regions. It is estimated that more than five million people live in mine-contaminated townships.
Due to the absence of a systematic and organized Victim Information System (VIS), the exact number of accidents caused by landmines and ERW in Myanmar remains unknown but is believed to be much higher than the 4,000 figures reported by the Landmine Monitor. It is likely that many victims are wounded or killed while they travel alone in remote locations and forests and that their disappearance is not often reported. Combatants belonging to EAO will not report accidents to national authorities and often search for emergency medical care and rehabilitation services in neighboring countries.
DDG in Myanmar
Danish Demining Group (DDG) established its presence in Myanmar in 2013 via its parent organization, Danish Refugee Council (DRC). DDG seeks to address the threat posed by landmine contamination to civilians, resulting from decades of civil strife.
Mine Risk Education
As a highly mine-contaminated country, an essential part of DDG’s work in Myanmar is to provide the needed education to communities, especially children.
Thus, MRE is delivered by DDG MRE Teams to local communities (in local languages and aims at informing participants about (1) the dangers of landmines and ERW, (2) recognition of dangerous explosive devices, (3) recognition of possibly contaminated and dangerous areas and (4) safe behaviors to avoid accidents. MRE aims at reducing the risk of accidents by encouraging beneficiaries to change behaviors and adopt safer strategies.
Non-Technical Survey (NTS)
NTS contributes to improving safe access to livelihoods in rural areas and to reducing the risk caused by landmines and ERW within target communities. In addition, the results of NTS provides crucial information to facilitate the preparation and planning of future land release activities.
DDG strategy is to expand NTS in new townships of Kayah State and additional townships in Shan State. The NTS component will be complemented with MRE sessions in locations identified as most at risk from mines and ERW. NTS starts with a visit to State authorities and local officials, police representatives and other key informants (including possible members of local EAO) in all target villages.
Victim Assistance (VA) and Livelihood
VA is a crucial pillar of mine action and DDG has developed specific referral protocol to assist landmines victims and their families. Victim assistance includes financial support to access medical structures, to provide food allowance for the victim and a caretaker person as well as the reference to rehabilitation structures. Livelihood support is provided to victims based on their needs and requests and can include alternative professional activities (small business or animal raising) and vocational training. DRC Livelihood department will take responsibility to deliver the livelihood assistance packages.
In 2017, DRC/DDG has conducted an epidemiological study of landmines victims in Kachin and Shan States and the study identified interesting conclusions that will inform future MRE programming.
DDG will continue and expand successful humanitarian mine action advocacy workshops already implemented at the Township, State and Union levels to provide information on the consequences of landmine contamination, on the traditional 5 mine action pillars as well as on the support that is traditionally provided by international organisations and community to mine affected countries. Local, State and Union officials and duty bearers, as well as EAO representatives, will benefit from this activity through various advocacy workshops.
DDG is actively engaging the Myanmar Government, its military and Ethic Armed Organizations (EAO) to encourage them to develop their humanitarian demining capacity and start surveys, marking and clearance without delay and not wait for the peace process to be concluded to do so. Because of the conflict history and dynamics, many contaminated areas do not have significant strategic significance anymore while they do represent high risks for local civilian communities. DDG has offered to provide technical and financial support to assist in the development of such capacities to both sides and coordinates with some other mine action operators to push this agenda forward.