Landmines threatening safe return of displaced Yemenis, UN warns

Returns to Abyan started off slow due to security concerns and the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Photo: OCHA/Eman

5 March 2013 – Landmines and other explosive remnants of war are threatening the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen, a spokesperson for the United Nations humanitarian arm warned today, adding that demining efforts are being hampered by a funding shortfall.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 140,000 formerly displaced people have returned to Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen, Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.

“More than three out of four depended on agriculture for their livelihoods. Clearing agricultural land was therefore critical to ensure their sustainable return,” stated Mr. Laerke.

Thousands were uprooted from their homes when fighting erupted in 2011 between government troops and militants in the south of Yemen. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been assisting people to return to their homes after government authority was re-established in Abyan last July.

While most urban areas, connection roads and public areas have been cleared of explosive remnants of war, or ERW, much agricultural land was still contaminated, Mr. Laerke noted.

Meanwhile, the Yemen Mine Action Programme, which is working with the Government to clear mines, is facing a budget shortfall of some $7.9 million, nearly 80 per cent of the required funding of $10 million.

The programme has so far destroyed 2,685 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 4,045 unexploded ordinance, 41 anti-tank mines and 76 anti-personnel mines.

According to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), mines and ERW continue to destroy lives, hinder infrastructure, and block access to critical resources, including water and grazing land, as well as causing casualties among men, women and children.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Growing number of internally displaced Yemenis returning to their homes – UN refugee agency

Related Stories