In Tchad, in Kou Kou and Goz Beida villages, near the border with Sudan, we help 127,000 internally displaced people.
Despite the fact that the conflict in the ex-Yugoslav territories has been over for more than a decade, today, Bosnia-Herzegovina is still one of the world's foremost countries contaminated with antipersonnel mines and unexploded devices (UXOs).
Approximately 1,312 km² of Bosnian land still has to be cleared of mines, a surface area equal to 2,5% of the entire national territory. Since the end of hostilities approximately 5,000 people have been victim to landmines and unexploded devices. For this reason, INTERSOS's projects in the country are concentrated on humanitarian mine clearance activities, as well as Mine Risk Education (MRE). The office in Sarajevo coordinates the activities of various mine clearance teams throughout the region; equally important is the mine risk awareness work that INTERSOS contributes to the local communities. The current projects are developed with funding from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ilijas Municipality.
After the death of Tito, the brief conflict that signalled the separation of Slovenia gave way to the disintegration of the state of Yugoslavia. For Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina this process would not prove to be so easy due to the nationalistic project of the then Yugoslavian president, Slobodan Milosevic, who tried to militarily prevent any such splits through the mobilisation of strong minority Serb forces within the two regions. The Bosnian ‘Declaration of Sovereignty’ of 15 October 1991 was followed by the hold of a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia early the next year. The referendum, which was boycotted by the Serbian community, resulted in a vote of 64% in favour of independence. This immediately led to the deployment by the Belgrade Government of their troops on Bosnian territory and the consequent formation and mobilisation of military and paramilitary groups on behalf of the three principal Bosnian ethnic groups: Serbs, Croats and Bosniak Muslims.
On 6 April 1992, The European Community recognised the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina; the Serbian deputies responded by proclaiming the secession of the Republika Srpska from Bosnia-Herzegovina, where military and paramilitary troops, supported by Belgrade, took control of about 70% of the territory. Ethnic violence flared-up throughout the country resulting in many civilian deaths and thousands of refugees. On 2 May 1992, the Yugoslav People's Army (the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's army) and Serbian paramilitary militias blocked all access to Sarajevo, placing the city under a siege that would eventually last 43 months. Murder, rape and deportation continued for the duration of the war in an outbreak of ethnic cleansing that reached its climax in July 1995, with the massacre of approximately 8,000 civilian Bosniaks in Srebrenica.
The horror provoked throughout the world as a result of this massacre led to an attitude shift throughout the international community. In August 1995, NATO began a campaign of aerial bombardment of Serbian militia installations which brought about an end to the conflict.
On 21 November 1995 in Dayton, Ohio (USA), the heads of state from Bosnia, Alija Izetbegović, Serbia, Slobodan Milošević and Croatia, Franjo Tuđman signed the Peace Accord which transformed Bosnia-Herzegovina into a federal republic composed of two entities: the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. The conflict resulted in a total of 102,000 deaths and 1,326,000 refugees, the worst European conflict since the end of the Second World War. The post-war reconstruction effort faced many challenges, including managing the reintroduction of refugees and displaced persons caused by the war, the necessity of housing reconstruction and the reestablishment of infrastructure, and the need to stimulate the return of entrepreneurial enterprises.
Fundamental in this effort has always been mine and UXO clearing. The presence of UXOs, unexploded artillery munitions, rockets, missiles and cluster bombs, in addition to landmines represents a continuing hazard for the Bosnian people and their national integrity, inhibiting agricultural development,delaying the integration of refugees and displaced persons and limiting the population's freedom of movement. Still today, the consequences of the presence of UXOs and antipersonnel mines are extreme: killing, mutilating, and physically disabling primarily Bosnian children and workers who are exposed to these devices. Farmers,shepherds and woodsmen continue to be the principal victims of this terrible legacy of the Yugoslav conflict - a vivid example of the social damage that limits freedom of movement and the recovery of the socio-economic life of the country.
On going intervention
Intersos in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues the activities of mine clearance and MRE (mine risk education) in 2013 thanks to the funding of the MAE / Italian Cooperation and co-financing of the City of Ilijas ( Bosnia Herzegovina).Thanks to these funds INTERSOS will implement direct demining for appoximatey 50,000 square meters of land in the areas of Sarajevo and Mostar. The mine clearance works in these areas will enable the restoration of infrastructure, water supply systems, and cultural heritage or tourist facilities. MRE Municipality Plan consisting in Community Liaison, MRE presentation for risk group (school children’s, hunters, wood workers etc.), Permanent marking, Public information etc. are also planned.
Intersos in the country
INTERSOS began operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993 in the middle of the civil war, and has since been part of the successive phases of post-war reconstruction, from the return of refugees to the difficulties of reconciliation.From 1993 until the signing of the Dayton Accord in 1995 we were principally involved in the transportation and distribution of basic emergency goods, as well as medical and sanitary supplies in the Zenica and Tuzla regions, and in providing assistance to orphaned children, again in the Tuzla region.Since the cessation of fighting at the end of 1995, INTERSOS has concentrated its interventions along the border areas between the Republika Srpska and the Croat-Bosniak Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular in the Sarajevo and Tuzla regions. The choice of interventions aims to encourage the resumption of dialogue between municipalities in the two republics, as well as assisting the return of displaced persons to their original place of origin. This was an extremely difficult undertaking, especially in that first year after Dayton, but one that INTERSOS saw as necessary, if only to serve as a demonstrative example that dialogue between the various parties was once again possible. INTERSOS is confident that it made the correct decision: one that has produced important results. Its activities, in both the Srpska and the Croat-Bosniak areas, have mainly concerned:- Distributing food to families in need in the Federation and Serb zones; assisting the return of minority groups to seceded areas.
- The recontruction and repair of housing for displaced persons and the restoration of public infrastructure services of social benefit in the Federation and Serb zones.
- The reestablishment/reconstruction and reopening of a centre for deaf-mute children.
- The reconstruction of five schools.
- The reparation of two centres for the elderly.
- The reprinting of books for school libraries.
- The restarting of animal breeding activities.
- Landmine clearance in rural and urban areas.
- Informing and educating children on the dangers posed by landmines and unexploded devices.INTERSOS began its mine clearance work in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996, with interventions in the Tuzla and Sarajevo cantons to enable reconstruction work and the safe return of refugees and displaced persons. Industrial zones, tourism and recreational areas, public parks, electrical lines and farmland have been reclaimed and returned to the local population and to the local government. Between 2002 and 2004, we reclaimed the FAMOS industrial plant in Sarajevo, with the purpose of eliminating danger areas and contributing to the relaunch of productivity and employment at the plant. During the same period, the INTERSOS l’Unitàdi sminamento or MAU (Mine Action Unit) worked on the reclamation of land near thermal springs in the town of Ilidža aimed towards the reconstruction of a medical centre which specialises in the rehabilitation of people suffering from disabilities. Activities then proceeded, from 2004 up to the present day, with the reclamation of other areas of high social significance and economic interest for the population, such as Mt. Trebević- a tourist zone adapted for winter sports, which held the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics and which, during the war, became a key stronghold for the forces besieging the city. Interventions of landmine and UXO clearance and land reclamation in Bosnia-Herzegovina have been carried out thanks to funding from the European Commission, the Italian Development Cooperation, various Italian regional and local bodies and private contributors to INTERSOS. It will not be possible to remove all mines and unexploded devices: unfortunately a certain number will have remained undiscovered by reclamation activities, especially those located in forested areas or buried under soil and debris, which could one day reappear. It is necessary to educate the local population, and in particular children, to know the correct manner in which to act if they encounter any such device. For this reason we have set up training courses for teachers and social workers to ensure circulation of the correct information and the protection of the local population. INTERSOS, from September 2009 until the end of December 2009, carried out a 'Permanent Marking' project. This intervention oversaw the positioning of metallic landmine warning signs, 1.5 metres in height, to mark areas that are considered at risk and are not expected to undergo mine clearance reclamation in the next 5 years.
From the field