Demining Efforts Continue [Archives:1999/16/Health]

April 19 1999

Yemen and its people have suffered a lot from the mines that were planted during the conflicts and wars between former North and South Yemen, and especially during the latest civil war against secessionists in 1994. However, things are being done, and tangible results are now evident. A meeting on this matter, coordinated by the Yemen 21 Forum was held on Tuesday, 13th of April 1999 between Qassim Abdulsalam Al-Sheybani, the manager of National Demining Program and the Canadian Alternatives for a Different World Organization representative, Mr. Hammouda Sobhi. 
Mr. Sobhi has just completed a visit to Yemen that was aimed to get a clearer view of what is being done about demining in Yemen. During his visit, Mr. Sobhi obtained a complete overview of the efforts of the National Demining Program and the stages that have been completed, the stages remaining, and future plans. He was also given information about how long the program is expected to last, and how effective it will be in clearing all dangerous mines in the areas where they had been planted all over the country. 
The purpose of the demining program, which is being directed by the national demining committee, and is being implemented by the technical implementation unit, is to spread awareness of mines and how to avoid them, help mine victims in all possible ways, and to seek out hidden mines and removing or destroying them. As one of the first 40 countries that signed the Ottawa Agreement, which prohibited the use of mines, and aims to destroy what is left of them, Yemen is now increasing its efforts in this regard. Al-Sheybani also displayed the contributions of NGOs and international organizations and the government to the demining program. He specifically stated the main foreign contributor was the United States of America in qualifying and training Yemeni personnel, in providing the equipment and facilities necessary for the demining fieldwork, and in rebuilding some of the establishments that are used to administrate the demining work. Besides the USA, Japan, Canada, the UN, and the Swedish Rada Barns Organization have also contributed to the demining program. Mr. Al-Sheybani emphasized the Canadian role in supporting the program on both the governmental and non-governmental level, which reflects the strengthening relations between the two countries. 
On his behalf, Mr. Hammouda explained the activities and course his organization is taking to assure its effectiveness and functionality on all fronts regarding demining efforts. His organization’s goal is to encourage public participation in developing the local society and in building a communication network between communities on an international level through various NGO. In fact, “Alternatives” is about to start helping several Yemeni rural areas improve their health services through direct coordination with local NGOs in those areas. Initially, there are four villages in the southern governorates the organization will be starting with. In two of them, there are already a large number of handicapped and disabled people, mostly due to the mines planted during the 1994 civil war, and some due to the explosions of some of UXO bombs near their villages. Several volunteer doctors and Aden’s training center plus other organizations will be participating in this demining program through offering medical attention and special equipment to help the handicapped in walking, etc. 
Mr. Hammouda also expressed his organization’s willingness to give more attention to the national demining program, and to further cooperate with the program’s administration on all levels to through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, and the permanent consul of Canada, Mr. Abdulmalik Zabara. Unlike other organizations, Alternatives does not operate from permanent establishments out of Canada, hence it encourages communication and cooperation with NGOs with various interests. In this regards, a deal has been struck initially between the two parties, the Alternatives Organization, and the National Demining Program to leave communication lines between them open to be as effective as possible in dealing with the essential needs required to implement the demining program efficiently. The two parties also agreed to work on increasing awareness among citizens, and to train personnel on dealing with mine related incidents and other explosions, and to perhaps open prosthetics and physiotherapy centers that could provide support appliances, wheelchairs, knee sockets, artificial limbs, etc. for mine victims. 
The Canadian government had provided the National Demining Program 10 protective suits worth almost US$ 100,000 through MED Engineering. Another contribution of the Canadian government is the major financing of the mining social, economic effects field study which is being promoted by the United Nation through DPKO-UNMAS project, which will start later this year, and which is expected to cost more than USD 1.3 Million. On another level, there is correspondence between the National Demining Program and the Canadian Organization ADRA, which will be carrying out several health and social activities in a number of rural areas in Tihama (Western coast of Yemen). Other than that, CIDA also is contributing to the same field. 
It is worth mentioning that last February, a Canadian delegation containing members from the Canadian Development Agency and Med-Engineering, along with representatives of the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh had visited Yemen. The delegation then met with the National Demining Program administration along with the National Demining Committee and led to the agreement on the contribution Canada will be offering for the ongoing demining program in Yemen. 
By: Mohamed Bin Sallam 
Yemen Times