At a youth-focused event that marked the International Mine Awareness Day in South Sudan’s capital Juba, Jurkuch Barach Jurkuch, Chairperson of South Sudan’s National Mine Action Authority (NMAA) expressed his regrets about the use of landmines in the country during decades of conflict.
Singing their hearts out, some 50 South Sudanese students from three primary schools in the capital Juba, list the dangers of landmines and unexploded ordnances. Their sing-along song also talks about the actions one needs to take if one comes across these dangerous items, which dot several key locations in their country.
Several decades of conflict have left South Sudan contaminated by explosive hazards. To rid the country of them, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been working in South Sudan since 2004. The work they and their partners do makes it possible for children to go to school, farmers to cultivate their crops, humanitarians and peacekeepers to reach the communities most in need of their assistance.
South Sudanese students are taking a firm and no-nonsense stand. They are raising their voices to help save other children and adults alike.
Marking this year’s Mine Awareness Day, a youth-focused event led by South Sudan’s National Mine Action Authority (NMAA), in partnership with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and its mine action component UNMAS, saw the children take the lead in expressing what they want done, while also highlighting how landmines have affected their communities.
Through song, dance, poetry and art, their messages around the global theme – Mine Action Cannot Wait - reverberated between the walls of the venue, where some of their thought-provoking pieces of were hanging on display.
Statistics indicate that it is children and youth who suffer the most from explosive hazards, as they tend to be the ones picking up shiny, sometimes toylike but fatal objects when they are out and about playing in the fields.
An engaging session between the national mine body (NMAA) official and the students saw the students answering the questions posed by the former about what had inspired their different drawings. Their responses were as astounding as their contributions to the competition.
Every year UNMAS in South Sudan and around the world marks and celebrates Mine Awareness Day on 4 April, as a reminder that more still needs to be done to keep people in places contaminated by unexploded remnants of war safe, to enable them to move around freely and go about their daily lives as usual. The problem is that clearing land not only a time-consuming and dangerous activity, but also an expensive one.
The National Mine Action Authority started has been clearing land mines in South Sudan since 1997, but the country is yet to be declared free of these silent killers.