In Lebanon, landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have killed more than 900 people and injured thousands more since 1975. People in many parts of Lebanon face daily dangers from these deadly hazards, a legacy left over from the country’s 1975 to 1991 civil war, as well as the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict of 2006. The United States has long been committed to promoting peace and security in Lebanon and has invested more than $60.5 million in assistance to safely clear unexploded munitions, save lives through risk education and outreach, and support the Lebanese Mine Action Center to receive advanced training.
The United States encourages all nations to work together to help Lebanon clear its landmines and UXO. That is why the United States recently participated in a delegation of mine action donors to Lebanon which was an initiative of the Mine Action Support Group, an international coalition of countries committed to raising funds and awareness in order to tackle the challenges of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Mine Action Support Group Chairman Ambassador Inigo Lambertini, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, led the delegation, which included representatives of Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the European Union, France, the International Trust Fund for Enhancing Human Security, the Lebanon Mine Action Center, and the United Nations, in addition to the United States and Italy. I had the opportunity to visit Lebanon as a part of the U.S. delegation to see firsthand how U.S. assistance is making a difference. Together, we toured the new Lebanese Mine Action Center's Regional School for Humanitarian Demining in Hammana and met with the center's risk education partners and local children, among other activities.
After participating in the delegation, I had the opportunity to conduct site visits to several of the programs our office manages in southern Lebanon with our implementing partner, the Mines Advisory Group. In Demashiquiyeh, I observed their demining teams and mechanical assets clearing a variety of mines, including anti-vehicle and anti-personnel landmines (such as difficult-to-detect low-metal content mines). The local community is anxiously awaiting the completion of the task and has already begun to use recently-cleared land. In Wazzani, their teams are clearing unexploded cluster munitions from a quarry that serves as a primary source of concrete in southern Lebanon. The clearance of contaminated areas like this quarry increase economic opportunities for local communities and facilitate development projects throughout southern Lebanon.
By supporting the work of implementing partners like Mines Advisory Group, and coordinating with other donors through mechanisms such as the Mine Action Support Group, the United States is not only making a difference in the lives of ordinary Lebanese but is contributing to international security by removing explosive materiel that could fall into the hands of extremists or terrorists.
About the Author: Patrick Shea is the Assistant Program Manager for the Middle East in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.