Unexploded weapons haunt communities in northern Ethiopia – Red Cross

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Unexploded weapons have continued threatening the lives of communities in conflict-affected parts of northern Ethiopia, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.

“Ten months after a peace agreement ended the two-year armed conflict in northern Ethiopia, the lives and livelihoods of the people living in weapon-contaminated areas in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar are threatened.

“(This is) in spite of significant improvements in the overall humanitarian situation,” the ICRC said in a statement.

According to the ICRC, among those most at risk are children playing and farmers returning to their land located in former battlefields.

“It is an absolute tragedy for someone to be killed or to lose a limb due to the detonation of unexploded weapons.

“Even more so after the end of a conflict,” Vasanth Kanags, ICRC’s weapon contamination specialist in the region, was quoted as saying in the statement.

“It is urgent that we inform communities of this danger, especially children who naturally want to play with new, interesting-looking objects,” he added.

The ICRC said it had increased efforts, together with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), to assist victims of explosive remnants of war and to keep people safe from this deadly legacy of the conflict.

This is particularly so in remote areas, by promoting safer behavior and engaging authorities in the marking and clearing of contaminated areas.

It has trained nearly 50 volunteers who promote risk awareness and safer behavior in 23 districts across Tigray, the ICRC said.

It added that ICRC weapon contamination teams also visit victims and refer them for medical or physical rehabilitation care in facilities supported by the ICRC.

Some victims of weapon contamination accidents with exceptional difficulties have also received emergency financial assistance from the ICRC to cover their urgent needs, it said.

The ICRC and ERCS are planning to scale up these lifesaving activities in contaminated and hard-to-reach areas in Amhara and Afar in the coming months to enable communities to protect themselves against the threat of such accidents.

According to International Humanitarian Law, civilians exposed to unexploded ordnance must be protected and assisted, the statement said. 

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