Lebanon has had to bear the brunt of the devastating impact of landmines and cluster munitions over decades of war . Beyond the immediate dangers on life and limb, the mine problem imposes a heavy economic burden to affected communities. It directly obstructs the socio-economic development of certain regions, water supplies, and power lines, and it impedes farming and reconstruction and development efforts , thus reinforcing poverty and fear of movement in communities that are already amongst the poorest in the country .
Words Alia Fawaz and Farah Daher
It is thanks to the relentless work of the Lebanese Mine Action Center (LMAC) and its many supporters and partners which include the Lebanese Army and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), that Lebanon can now anticipate a future where these deadly devices will no longer be a threat…
The History of deadly landmines in Lebanon
The Lebanon mine action problem can be divided into three phases:
The first phase was during the 1975-1990 civil war, during which Lebanese territory was littered with 100,000 landmines, including an alarmingly large number of unexploded ordnances.
The second phase began in 2000 when Israel withdrew from Lebanon (after a 22-year occupation) leaving more than 550,000 antipersonnel and anti-tank mines in the South and Western Bekaa.
By mid-2006, Lebanon was well on its way to recovery (clearance from these mines was expected to be reached by 2009), but the planning and optimism came to an abrupt end in July 2006 when Israel bombarded southern Lebanon and dropped more than 4 million cluster munitions. This third deadliest phase contaminated approximately 54.9 square kilometers of land, and affected over one million people.
The Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC )
Established in 1998, the LMAC’s vision is a Lebanon free from the impact of mines/ERW (including unexploded submunitions.
The LMAC is staffed with army personnel assigned to the mine action program. It manages mine action activities that consist of: Demining, Mine Risk Education (MRE), Victim Assistance (VA), Advocacy, and ensuring the provision of administrative and logistical support to facilitate the work of all mine action organizations working in Lebanon in accordance with national and international standards. The UNDP continues to work closely with the Lebanese Army to strengthen technical and managerial capacities of the LMAC to effectively implement the mine action strategy 2010-2020.
Helping others in the region
Today, with its acquired competence and capacity-building efforts, LMAC has developed a highly competent team that has been providing training and support to organizations working in Lebanon’s mine sector, as well as to other affected countries and especially the Arabic-speaking ones. With the established capacity, Lebanon has been able to prove itself as a focal point in the region, whose advice and expertise is being sought out by other countries, such as Libya.
Still work to do
For Lebanon to reach its goal of being free from cluster munitions by 2019, Lebanon has yet to clear a remaining 17.06 million squaremeter of contaminated area. Factoring in the annual clearance average since 2012 of 3.31 million squaremeter (securing yearly 25 demining teams), indicates that the required time to clear the remaining areas would be close to five years. To reach LMAC’s clearance goal in the five year time frame, increased contributions of human resources, as well as physical and financial support will be required.