In this short documentary, journalist and filmmaker Rob Asher visits AOAV’s demining camps in Western Sahara and follows Mariem Zaid and her team of mine clearance operators in their work securing 72 million square metres of land.
AOAV started work in Western Sahara in 2006 and was the first organisation to conduct a survey into the extent of landmines, cluster bombs and other remnants of war in the area east of the Berm. During the survey, staff identified 158 cluster strikes, 37 minefields and one ammunition dump. They removed items posing immediate danger and prioritised the rest in terms of proximity to where people live, the water points and main transport routes. Dangerous areas were market off to prevent any casualties.
AOAV is the only organisation clearing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) east of the Berm. To date, AOAV has cleared over 16 million square meters of land, 2,000 unexploded bombs and 10,000 cluster munitions.
To support the mine action programme, there are 68 employees working on the ground, 61 of whom are Saharawi, including the country manager.
The clearance operators are trained to International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and other employees have received professional training in First Aid and administration and management procedures. An emergency response team is also ready to respond to any emergencies, such as a landmine accident or the sighting of a dangerous item, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The team is made up of trained staff and coordinates with the UN to provide emergency medical evacuation.
So far, AOAV has cleared Tifariti and Mehaires, two of the most affected regions of all known cluster bombs and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO). Clearance of Bir Lahlu, another badly affected region, began in March 2011. Now that most of the dangerous areas have been cleared, AOAV is looking into how to best support Saharawi people to use cleared land to make a living.
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