Yemen’s Landmines: Involuntary Displacement and Untold Suffering
April 4, 2023
Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) have significant economic and social effects for both urban and rural Yemenis, posing substantial development constraint. During the protracted conflict, millions of landmines and UXOs have been laid across the country, rendering many residential neighborhoods uninhabitable or very dangerous.
Abdullah (57), the father of six children, is from Yemen's southern Taiz province. As conflict erupted in his densely populated neighborhood in early 2015, he and around 3,000 other residents were forced to relocate to safer locations.
"Everything was great; we were safe and secure. Everyone was performing their jobs, and schools and hospitals were operating regularly," Abdullah explains.
"But when the conflict started, we had to flee to secure locations. When we returned, many of our homes had been entirely or partially destroyed, and many government institutions and roads had been damaged," he recalls. The security officials informed us that the region was contaminated with mines, explosive devices, and unexploded munitions."
The Fear of Returning Home
Even though the fighting in area ended, many opted to stay away until they were informed that it was safe to return. However, Abdullah and his family’s desire to return home was stronger than their fear of the danger. “When we were displaced, we suffered a lot. It was difficult to get a job to make ends meet for the family, and to pay rent on top of this was nearly impossible. My children also found it difficult to enroll in school and adapt to the new situation.”
Those who chose to return were vulnerable to the numerous types of landmines and UXOs that were scattered across the neighborhood. Many lost their lives or were physically and/or psychologically impaired. Abdullah explains that during this time it was “…difficult to move between areas in the neighborhood”. He goes on to say that “Many shops and schools did not open due to the presence of mines or other remnants of war (ERW). We also found it difficult to get basic services like water trucks in the neighborhood.”
Abdullah described a few incidents in his neighborhood that he will never forget. He recalled one such incident when a bulldozer hit a landmine and exploded, killing many people in the area. Lowering his head, his memory filled with grief, he also recalled his neighbor's 13-year-old son who died after stepping on a landmine while tending his goats.
When such tragic instances were recorded, the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) national partner, the Yemen Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), dispatched Emergency Survey and Clearance Teams to the areas to save the lives of the neighborhood's residents and avoid additional harm.
In this instance, the YEMAC teams managed to clear 58 anti-vehicle landmines, two anti-personnel landmines, one improvised explosive device (IED) and 42 different types of UXOs from the neighborhood and the main road.
"Before the arrival of the mine detection team, we were living in terror and a constant state of worry, moving with extreme caution. But now, after the survey and clearance activities in his neighborhood, Abdullah explains that the “roads are now open, and the residents of the area are feeling secure and comfortable. The children are even able to go to their schools, and we go to our workplaces safely."
In 2022, UNDP’s national partner YEMAC cleared 81,000 explosive devices, including 9,054 anti-vehicle landmines, 861 anti-personnel landmines, and 3,149 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), clearing or reducing the potential risk of mines in around 6.5 million square meters of land and benefiting over one million Yemenis.
Since 2017, UNDP Yemen and its partners the Yemen Executive Mine Action Centre (YEMAC) and the Yemen Mine Action Co-ordination Centre (Y-MACC) have been developing the national capacity to respond to the threats posed by explosive hazards, assist in the restoration of basic services, facilitate access to infrastructure, reduce injuries and fatalities, provide access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and support government and national mine control institutions through the Emergency Mine Action Project.
The Long-Term Price of Yemen’s Conflict
In 2021, with support from UNDP and its international partners, 200 YEMAC mine action professionals – 17 of whom were women – were trained in non-technical survey...