Gaza: one year after the conflict, civilians still threatened by explosive remnants of war

The lives of civilians in Gaza are still endangered by explosive remnants of war [1], one year after the outbreak of fighting between Israel and Palestinian armed groups. At least 4,500 explosive devices [2], are still buried under the rubble of houses and infrastructure destroyed during the 50-day conflict. Handicap International immediately supplied aid to the most vulnerable individuals and, since March 2015, it has organised risk education sessions to prevent more people falling victim to these weapons.

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The 50-day conflict was extremely violent, killing and maiming civilians and displacing the people of Gaza to areas where they were less exposed to the fighting. After returning to their homes at the end of the conflict, many are now at risk from the lethal threat of explosive remnants of war.

“Residents are still being killed and injured by explosive remnants left behind after the end of hostilities last summer. They are scattered across the city and make even the smallest journey and particularly construction work in Gaza very dangerous,” explains Guillaume Zerr, the head of Handicap International’s mission in the Palestinian Territories. “It has paralysed an entire population.   It’s very important to educate people about the risk from explosive remnants of war and to teach them best practices which can save the lives of people living in Gaza.”

Handicap International has already conducted nearly 700 risk education sessions for more than 5,000 adults and children since March 2015. The organisation assesses damaged or destroyed buildings to determine the level or type of risks posed by the potential presence of explosive engines. If necessary, following the audit, civil engineering teams intervene to clear the rubble or demining teams are called to neutralise explosive remnants of war.

In the six months following the conflict, Handicap International and its four local partners also organised 28,000 rehabilitation sessions for more than 4,800 injured and disabled people. Handicap International has also distributed 2,500 mobility aids (crutches and wheelchairs) and 4,000 non-food items, such as blankets and hygiene kits. More than 2,000 people were given psychological support and nearly 6,400 people have been referred to specific services provided by other organisations.


Notes 
[1] Explosive remnants of war are unexploded munitions, including artillery shells and mortars, grenades, bombs and rockets abandoned following armed conflicts. 
[2] According to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which also estimated that 2,500 explosive devices had already been collected. 

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Tom Shelton 
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About Handicap International 

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people in over 60 countries worldwide.

Published 11/12/15

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