Following a series of attacks on the Syrian city of Kobani, on the Turkish border, Handicap International was forced to leave the area and suspend its activities. Before this break, we had already safely neutralised several tonnes of explosive devices.
Now that activities have been resumed, we will be able to restart training for our weapons clearance teams who will identify hazardous devices and neutralise them before they can kill or injure civilians returning to the city. The area has one of the highest densities of explosive remnants of war in the world, which makes clearance activities extremely dangerous.
The fighting between September 2014 and January 2015 caused unprecedented levels of contamination, posing a daily threat to the lives of residents returning to their homes. Although almost all of the city’s residents were forced to flee the fighting, more than 120,000 people have already returned to Kobani and the surrounding area. It is therefore vital to make sure people are aware of the threats posed by this contamination.
Since May more than 2,000 people have benefited from awareness-raising sessions run by Handicap International and at least 15,000 people have received booklets alerting civilians about the permanent threat posed by explosive remnants of war. These awareness-raising operations are still underway.
In April 2015, Handicap International assessed the damage caused by the fighting in Kobani and the surrounding villages. The evaluation team observed the devastating effect of the intensive use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the maiming and killing of civilians, and the destruction of homes and infrastructure including hospitals and schools. Handicap International’s teams have rarely witnessed contamination by explosive remnants of war on this scale.