Handicap International resumes activities in Kobani

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In mid-August, Handicap International restarted its mine action work in the Syrian city of Kobani, the scene of fierce fighting between September 2014 and January 2015.

Teams are once again teaching civilians how to spot, avoid, and report the weapons they find. Handicap International's local demining training course has resumed, and teams will soon begin again to identify hazardous devices, and to neutralize weapons before they can maim and kill the civilians returning to the city.

A series of attacks in this Turkish border town in late June 2015, forced Handicap International to leave the area and suspend its activities on June 25. As a result of its demining work begun in May, several tons of explosive devices have already been neutralized by Handicap International deminers.

Kobani suffers from one of the highest densities of explosive remnants of war pollution in the world, rendering these operations very difficult.

The fighting between September 2014 and January 2015, caused unprecedented levels of contamination, posing a daily threat to residents. Although almost all of the city’s residents were forced to flee the fighting, tens of thousands of people are preparing to return to the city of Kobani.

It is vital to ensure that these people are aware of the threats posed by the weapons left from the fighting and air campaigns. Since May, more than 2,000 people have benefited from awareness-raising sessions run by Handicap International, and at least 15,000 have received awareness booklets on the permanent threat posed by explosive remnants of war. These awareness-raising operations are ongoing.

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[1] in populated areas by all parties to the Syrian conflict, including the maiming and killing of civilians, and the destruction of homes and infrastructure such as hospitals and schools.

Handicap International’s teams have rarely witnessed explosive remnants of war contamination on this scale.

Related information
May 2015 Fact Sheet: Kobani—A city of rubble and unexploded devices


[1] Explosive weapons include mortars, missiles, rockets, artillery shells, air-dropped bombs, and other weapons listed in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and other instruments such as “explosive devices” and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Different characteristics influence their precision and explosive effect, but these weapons generally have a blast and fragmentation effect.