Saving lives and limbs

  • 21 Dec. 2009 -
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  • Last updated: 14 Jan. 2010 10:19

Across the world, people living in former war zones risk being killed or seriously injured by unexploded and abandoned munitions. Jordan is tackling this problem with the help of two NATO-sponsored Trust Fund projects.

“Thanks to this work it may perhaps be possible to avoid accidents like the one I was a victim of,” says Taha, who lost both his legs when he was 16. “Perhaps it won’t happen to someone else, or to one of my children.”

Taha was maimed several years ago, when working in a blacksmith’s workshop in Zarqa, Jordan’s second largest city. They were trying to recuperate the metal from what was thought to be a safely defused bomb, when it exploded, killing two people and injuring another.

Thousands of Jordanians like Taha hope to live in a safer environment. As a result of several conflicts between 1948 and 1975, explosive remnants of war are scattered around the countryside and towns, posing a significant risk to local communities.

It not just a matter of human safety but a socio-economic issue too: until these unexploded munitions are cleared from the land, hundreds of hectares cannot be used safely.

Building capacity

In December 2007, NATO launched a Trust Fund project in Jordan to assist the country in getting rid of these dangerous materials.

The first step was to identify priority risk areas. A survey was conducted in cooperation with the Jordanian National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR).

“We have 164 communities that are affected […] predominantly in the northern part. We’ve had in the last year, during 2008, unfortunately 13 accidents, which resulted in the deaths of six individuals,” says H.R.H. Prince Mired Ra’ad Al-Hussein, who chairs the board of the NCDR.

The project also delivered specialized search equipment and helped build the capacity of the Jordanian Armed Forces to search for and safely destroy unexploded munitions, and to manage ammunition stockpiles.

Building on the experience and achievements of the first project, a second project was launched in November 2009. It will fund an education programme on mine and explosive remnants of war, which will be conducted by the NCDR in the three provinces of Ajloun, Jerash and Zarqa.

The new project will also purchase, commission and install equipment for the newly built ammunition demilitarization facility in Zarqa. Technical and managerial training will be provided as required.

Building confidence

These projects in Jordan are the first Trust Fund projects to be launched in the framework of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue.

“This practical focus aimed at concrete results […] should help to build confidence between us and demonstrate to the Jordanian public the merits of working together with the Alliance in the context of our Mediterranean Dialogue,” said NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, at the launch of the second project.

Through voluntary contributions from NATO’s member states and partner countries, Trust Fund projects support practical demilitarization and defence reform projects with expert advice and resources.

Norway, Spain and Switzerland led the first project in Jordan. Other contributing nations were Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Jordan and Turkey. Total costs were an estimated €3.4 million. The second project is led by Italy with total costs of some €.2.6 million. The NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) serves as the executing agent, overseeing project implementation.