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News from the ground: January update on AOAV’s field programmes

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) conducts field-based programming in support of its mission to reduce the incidence and impact of armed violence globally. Utilizing experience and knowledge gained from its research, policy-work, and fieldwork, AOAV conducts evidence-based programming in five countries in West, Central, and North Africa – Burundi, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Western Sahara. Over the past year, financial support for these activities has been generously provided by the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Australian Government, and a number of private foundations and donors.


In December, AOAV continued making progress towards establishing a professional and inclusive Burundi Armed Violence Observatory (BrAVO). AOAV held a second workshop with the Burundian National Commission for Small and Light Weapons (CNAP) and other stakeholders to develop and finalize a Terms of Reference (ToR) for the BrAVO. This workshop brought together the police, army, government officials, and civil society groups to agree on the make-up, structure and functions of the BrAVO. In addition to agreeing on the ToR, AOAV also facilitated a workshop on data collection and management with the support of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during which stakeholders developed a harmonised data collection sheet for all entities to use. The stakeholders agreed on the definitions, categories and format for collecting and sharing data so that it could be analysed and disseminated by the BrAVO. AOAV is working to secure additional funding from the Netherlands to complement Norwegian funding for the BrAVO for the first four months of 2014.

CEDAC Peer Support Worker with a female survivor in Burundi

CEDAC Peer Support Worker with a female survivor in Burundi

During the last nine months of peer-led psychosocial assistance, AOAV and its local partner the Training Centre for Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC) have reached 1,232 armed violence survivors and people with disabilities, including 1,034 women. November was dedicated to sensitising women survivors and women with disabilities on the benefits of forming associative groups, which would open up opportunities to participate in peer outreach, income generation, and advocacy. Supported with additional AusAID funding, these groups were created and functioning by December, as participants chose income generating activities such as vegetable or coffee farming and began to plant their gardens.

AOAV also undertook a number of capacity building activities for CEDAC in November and December. AOAV and CNAP collaborated to provide training for CEDAC staff on protocols for dealing with small arms and light weapons when working with local communities. In CEDAC’s experience, some victims receiving psychosocial support have been found carrying weapons due to fear of being victimized again. As peer support workers are trusted within their communities, they are also often approached with information on unlicensed weapons and asked for advice on how to manage the situation. The training was designed to help CEDAC staff safely guide beneficiaries through traumatic recovery and manage potentially risky situations without illegal arms; it was conducted in conjunction with the Government’s second civilian disarmament campaign, currently being led by CNAP.

CEDAC peer support workers and community animators also received trained in HIV awareness, as this had been repeatedly identified as a serious risk for many survivors and women with disabilities due to their challenging personal and economic situations. Topics included definitions, understanding the difference between HIV and AIDS, modes of transmission, and how to manage relationships in light of the risks of HIV/AIDS.

Burundian women planning advocacy campaigns with AOAV and CEDAC

Burundian women planning advocacy campaigns with AOAV and CEDAC

To raise awareness on the vulnerability of women survivors and women with disabilities and the particular challenges they face, trainings were also held by the advocacy groups supported with AusAID and Norwegian funding with stakeholders from the Ministry of Security, Department of Victim Assistance, Ministry of Solidarity, municipal authorities, and human rights organisations in security and safety for women living with disabilities.

As part of their campaigning activities, women survivors and women with disabilities organised a concert in Muramvya in early December to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Traditional Burundian drums and other cultural dancing groups performed around different themes such as education, health, and information, with the goal of showing the audience that people living with disabilities are capable. The celebration was concluded by a concert performed by a famous group of disabled singers, Peace and Love, who were joined on stage by women with disabilities. More than 2,500 were in attendance, including a representative from the Ministry of Solidarity, Gender, and Human Rights and the Governor of Muramvya, who praised the work of CEDAC and AOAV and encouraged them to continue working to integrate people living with disabilities into communities.


The Liberian Armed Violence Observatory’s (LAVO) trend report on armed violence was launched on 13 November, with 40 government officials, civil society, and media members in attendance. The report, the first report written by the LAVO without AOAV assistance, analyses incidents of armed violence over two years of data collection to determine whether or not armed violence has decreased, increased, or remained the same. Representatives from the LAVO also visited Bong and Nimba counties in central Liberia to identify potential data providers in areas where statistics on armed violence are rarely collected. T o support their visit, the LA VO Armed Violence Prevention drama and song, performed by popular Liberian HipCo artist Takun J, was aired on local radio stations. Finally, the LAVO Chairman and the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA) programme manager travelled to Geneva in November to attend the Meeting on National Reports on Security and Armed Violence, hosted by AOAV and Small Arms Survey.

AOAV’s two Youth Drop-in Centres in West Point – a poor urban community on the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia – continue to provide workshops and training to vulnerable youth twice each week. Through the end of 2013, 37 workshops have been held with an attendance of 1,084 young people and a retention rate of 72%. Youth have also begun to engage in leadership roles and show a strong sense of ownership, leading activities, redirecting each other’s misbehaviour, and helping with other initiatives. Of the 32 trained Conflict Transformation Team (CTT) members, 28 remain active. Since August, members have deescalated or mediated 246 conflicts, of which 47 involved armed violence and 31 involved physical violence. CTT members have also increasingly engaged others in their communities, bringing people to meetings so they can learn about conflict transformation.

AOAV completed its Border Area pilot project at the end of 2013, aimed at re-establishing and building the capacity of community watch groups to provide security in underserved border communities. AOAV and local partner Sustainable Livelihoods Promoters Programme (SLPP) organised a workshop in November with collaboration from Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the Liberian National Police, and Community Watch Forums. Significantly, these agencies provided the training themselves, with the aim of improving local partnerships between formal security providers and community watch groups and improving the possibility for long- term collaboration. 123 community-based security providers were trained in violent crime prevention and response; topics included conflict mediation and de-escalation, rape, data collection and reporting, and community leadership. Out of 101 participants surveyed, 87% said that they feel better able to protect their communities due to the training. Subsequently, 10 community watch groups have been established in the border areas.

Liberian soldier being trained on ERW destruction

Liberian soldier being trained on ERW destruction

With financial support from UNOPS, AOAV has commenced humanitarian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), as well as instructing the Liberian National Police (LNP) in explosive remnants of war (ERW) awareness. 16 AFL engineers completed EOD Level 1 training in November, covering subjects such as the history of mine action, risk education, dangerous area mapping, and use of explosives. Through December, all 16 trainees had completed and passed EOD Level 2 training, which included instruction in enhanced explosive theory, ammunition handling and transport, and demolition methods. The students displayed their training with a supervised explosive demonstration during their graduation ceremony, which was attended by representatives from the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the U. S. Department of Defence’s military-led team Operation Onward Liberty, the Economic Community of West African States, and the National Ministry of Defence. Following completion of the course, a team of AOAV- trained AFL engineers carried out its first EOD task, successfully destroying an unexploded hand grenade. Additionally, AOAV conducted a pilot training exercise in ER W awareness and ‘train the trainer’ approaches with 9 Police Academy instructors from the LNP, all of whom successfully passed the course.

Finally, in December AOAV was granted additional funding from the World Bank, which previously funded six classes of AOAV’s agricultural training programmes. These funds will be used for reintegration packages for two cycles of graduates, which will allow them to form cooperatives or start their own personal gardens using the skills they gained while participating in the programme. The Agricultural Training Centre in Tumutu was officially handed over by AOAV to the Ministry of Youth and Sport (MOYS) on 17 December; MOYS plans to run agricultural programmes there in the future, utilizing the curriculum and methodologies developed by AOAV. A formal ceremony celebrating AOAV’s work is planned for January 2014.


Utilizing financial support from the Norwegian government, in December AOAV and the Nigerian Working Group on Armed Violence (NWGAV) published a study detailing the varied patterns of their country’s armed violence, The Violent Road: An Overview of Armed Violence in Nigeria. The publication of the report was held in conjunction with a workshop for the NWGAV, followed by a launch event in Abuja. The two-day workshop – attended by members of the working group and other organisations working in the field of armed violence reduction – aimed to prepare attendees for the public launch of the report. Trainings were conducted on topics such as press release writing, engaging with media, and engaging in social and online media to reach a greater audience. Following the closed workshop, working group members developed a press release and informed the media of their own conclusions from the report.

Also in December, the NWGAV proposed a strategic plan for 2014 which built on the two-day strategic workshop AOAV held for the group in October. In addition to outlining the newly refined mission of the group, the plan included projects proposed for 2014 including: lobbying the Nigerian legislature to develop and pass a bill creating a Nigerian Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons; monitoring, documenting, and publicizing news reports on incidents of armed violence; organising a national summit on armed violence; and coordinating a series of advocacy visits to key political parties and leading politicians to lobby for armed violence reduction and prevention programming leading up to the 2015 general election. AOAV is currently helping the NWGAV identify possible funding for these activities while offering general advice and counsel to further strengthen the group.

Sierra Leone

The Director of Programmes visited Sierra Leone – where AOAV established an office in early 2013 with Norwegian support – to attend the official launch of AOAV’s project to assist in establishing the Sierra Leone Armed Violence Observatory (SLAVO), as well as to meet with partners, government officials, and donors to discuss plans for 2014.

Following months of one-on-one meetings with government and civil society leaders to discuss the possibility of establishinganationalobservatory,AOAVanditsnationalpartnertheSierraLeoneActionNetworkonSmallArms (SLANSA) held a one-day multi-stakeholder forum in early November to encourage open debate and discussion on the subject. Attending were 30 members of government, academia, civil society, and the media attended, including representatives of key government agencies and civil society organisations such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Sierra Leone National Police (SLNP), the Office of the President, the Sierra Leone Red Cross, Women’s Forum andtheUniversityofSierraLeone. Bytheendoftheforum,allattendeesagreedthatestablishinganarmedviolence observatory would help in developing a greater understanding of armed violence in the country and mobilize decision-makers to create solutions. Participants called for another meeting in early 2014 to finalize terms of reference, establish roles and responsibilities, and develop a plan for the coming year. Meanwhile, follow-up meetings between AOAV and key stakeholders in December have already elicited an offer by the SLNP to provide data on a monthly basis to the SLAVO.

AOAV continued discussions with the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA) to agree on joint areas of interest for 2014. Previously, AOAV helped the Commission develop a National Action Plan for implementing the 2012 Arms and Ammunition Act; provided it with training and equipment for marking and tracing weapons; and worked together as key partners in the SLAVO initiative. A set of initiatives centred on helping the Commission implement the national SALW plan was successfully developed and is included in AOAV’s projects for next year.

Following the original survey and technical assessment of blacksmiths in Sierra Leone, AOAV and SLANSA collaborated on a second survey in November to specifically identify blacksmiths who are currently producing weapons and gaining a greater understanding of their circumstances. While the final database is still being collated, a total of 142 blacksmiths were identified who are currently producing weapons. Of these, 23 expressed an interest in legally registering and 119 were interested in training opportunities for producing safer and practical alternatives to weapons. A package of tools and training was finalized and will be implemented in early 2014 for up to 40 blacksmiths as part of a pilot project to encourage the pursuit of alternate, legal goods.

Western Sahara

AOAV and its South Africa based partner Mechem continued to conduct clearance of contaminated areas in the southern Mijek region and the northern Mehaires region of Western Sahara using its dedicated battle area clearance team and manual and mechanical demining teams. The mechanical assets – a Mine Wolf and newly integrated Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection System (VMMDS) – achieved an impressive clearance average of 37,655 m2 per day. AOAV’s Multi-Tasking Teams (MTTs) were able to clear 90,000 m2 in November and 27,174 m2 with only 8 operational days in December, averaging 1,704 m2 per day. In December, AOAV’s 24/7 Emergency Response Team (ER T) responded to a reported hand grenade threat, successfully locating and destroying the item. Following a break in operations over the holidays, operations are scheduled to recommence with refresher training in early January.

AOAV Medical and Manual Clearance teams conducting a CASEVAC exercise

AOAV Medical and Manual Clearance teams conducting a CASEVAC exercise

In November, AOAV’s Chief Medic and emergency response teams received refresher training in emergency medical procedures such as emergency evacuation (CASEVAC) and first aid from the international medical consultant. The Consultant reported that the teams had excellent knowledge and skills and worked professionally. AOAV medics’ skills were put to the test in December, when they helped a local women deliver a baby boy in an emergency (see highlights).

To support victims of landmines and ERW, AOAV has distributed funding to 27 survivor cooperatives made up of 115 survivors and continues to monitor their progress with its local partner the Saharawi Association of Mine Victims (ASAVIM). Cooperatives have pursued a wide range of business opportunities, including general trading, cattle raising, transportation, clothes trading, and agriculture. AOAV and ASAVIM provide accompaniment and support to new cooperatives to help them develop viable business plans. Meanwhile, AOAV is also working with existing cooperatives through a trial partial loan scheme to help promising cooperatives transition to sustainable financial success and independence. With ASAVIM, AOAV plans to conduct assessments with the 2012 and 2013 cooperatives in early 2014 to prepare a comprehensive evaluation of the project. The aim of this report is to establish the most effective and sustainable modules for support ERW survivors and their families in Western Sahara.



Testimonies from Burundi

Ndikumana Monique is 47 year old. During the war that started in 1993 her husband was killed. She was left with 6 children.
“After the death of my husband, they messed up everything. I was expropriated from my plot because they said that it was up to the family to manage everything. At the end, they said that the house didn’t belong to me and my children but to the family of my husband. These situations have traumatised me for 4 years. In 2009, my in-laws were threatening me and my children with death. I escaped to another quarter. Since meeting the peer support worker, she gave me advice on how to seek government intervention or prosecute them through the courts. Fortunately the government has solved this. I am now stable and thanks to my peer support worker I am improving my life. Selling vegetables is permitting me to satisfy my basic needs. ”

Nsavyimana Fabliola lives in Bujumbura city, Kamenge commune, Mirango quarter.
“For a long time, my heart was very sad because of how my husband threatened me. Regularly, my husband was highly abusing alcohol. He would leave the home and come back in the evening [having abused alcohol]. When he arrives, I was being beaten as if I was not a human being. Living with disability has an impact itself. Then, when you don’t receive support when you were expecting intervention, it is a total discouragement. Now the situation is normal. I applaud CEDAC because thanks to their peer support worker has transformed [the situation].”

Western Sahara

On 7 December, a local woman Fatma came to AOAV’s field base in Mijek, Western Sahara seeking medical assistance. Fatma was in the early stages of labour and experiencing severe pain and needed urgent medical assistance. Fatma and her family live in the remote desert and due to recent flash floods, she could not get to a hospital. AOAV’s medical team examined Fatma and transported her on one of its specially-equipped ambulances to the nearest health facility. On the way to the hospital, Fatma gave birth to a baby boy. On seeing the baby was not breathing, Mul’la resuscitated him and he soon gained consciousness. Checking with the mother three days on, both mother and baby were doing well. The boy had not yet been named as it is traditional in Western Sahara to name a child seven days after the birth.

AOAV medic Mul’la and newborn

AOAV medic Mul’la and newborn

More accustomed to caring for victims of explosions, AOAV medic Mul’la Buzeid Bobih and the team responded with the utmost professionalism and provided excellent care for Fatma and her child. ‘I will not forget it in a hurry’, Mul’la said after the event, ‘as I have never delivered a baby before!’

For over seven years, AOAV has been conducting humanitarian survey and clearance of dangerous landmines and explosive remnants of war in Western Sahara. Its medics are highly trained and provide 24/7 rapid medical response in case of mine accidents, 365 days a year. AOAV’s medical staff are a lifeline to communities in the harsh, desert environment. In addition to round-the-clock, emergency response for mine-related incidents and healthcare for its demining staff, AOAV provides assistance in emergency cases to members of the local community. In June 2013, the medical team saved the life of a man who was bitten by a horned viper, one of the world’s most venomous snakes.

In medical emergencies, AOAV coordinates closely with the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the MINURSO Mine Action Centre (MACC) which provide vital emergency evacuation support with helicopters to transport critical cases to the main hospital. In 2013, AOAV provided lifesaving treatment to 7 victims of landmines and cluster munitions in Western Sahara with MINURSO support.