About 7,000 bombs, rockets, and other explosives remain in the Gaza Strip following the conflict between Israel and Hamas last summer. These unexploded weapons pose a serious threat to civilians, especially those involved in the clean-up effort. To help prevent accidents, Handicap International is implementing an awareness campaign to educate people about the risks posed by explosive remnants of war.
While United Nations has contracted private firms to remove the rubble, it is not able to fund all of the work that is needed. As a result, much of the clean-up work is being done by individuals or contracted to small local businesses. Most of the work is done with no oversight.
Handicap International staff members are going door to door in the worst-affected neighborhoods to educate the most at-risk community members about the dangers posed by explosives. The organization is also holding group education sessions. "We want to reach at least 1,000 tradesmen and small business beneficiaries in the next three months," said Guillaume Zerr, Handicap International Head of Mission in the Palestinian territories.
During education sessions, staff teach community members how to spot and identify explosive devices. "The recommendation for anyone who thinks they have found an explosive device is to inform our team immediately,” said Zerr. “A specialist will then arrive to identify the device. If it is dangerous, Handicap International's team will mark the zone and contact the United Nations Mine Action Service [which removes the weapons]," said Zerr. "Our main priority is to limit the number of accidents by repeating the same message: whenever you find a suspicious object, call an expert."