Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action English  ENG Azeri   AZE

MINE RISK EDUCATION

AZERBAIJAN MINE RISK EDUCATION PROGRAM

MRE is one of the main pillars of mine action aimed at spreading safe bahavior rules and mesages among people living in mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) affected areas? at the same time ensured safety of development and rehabilitation projects from the threat of explosive devices.

MRE activity covers population of 26 distcricts and towns, including internally displaced people from occupied territories settled in IDP camps and frontier areas.

After analysis and studying of demographical situation and national mentality and needs of the local folks vurnerable to threat as well, we set up our MRE strategy of:

a)  developing of a national capacity capable to educate people,

b)  implementation of community based MRE activities and,

c)  integration of MRE into curriculum of schools in border-close and frontline districts.

Formed in 2000, the MRE Working Group (WG), consisting of representatives of several republic ministries, including international and national entities and civil defense HQs and some other NGOs, played great role in setting priority tasks, in discussions of current activities and adopting of annual work plan.

As a rule, ANAMA operational groups and support staff in the field regularly conduct educational and awareness related talks, discussions and briefings at the beginning of their activities or before operations. So, MRE activities are being performed by ANAMA (TSQAD, UXO, MDD and ERT) teams and at present these have become an essential part of all mine action related activities in communities.

According to the program, implementing partners of ‘Relief’ Azerbaijan and ‘IEPF’ - the national non-governmental organizations are also responsible for awareness of population along with mine clearance operations. In 2017, the mentioned above groups and NGOs organized 100 trainings, discussions and awareness talks with the participation of 34 821 residents and with distribution of 6 189 units of various types of public awareness materials.

The ‘MRE Corners’ in the regional bases play great role in dissemination of safe behavior rules, messages and at the same time in provision of the locals, the de-miners and the guests, who visit the operations, with education materials.

In the last past years, some projects, such as ‘A Summer Camp for child mine survivors and the children from mine survivors’ families’, and ‘A Drawing Contest’ among the school-children, executed under the motto “For mines free world” in some program targeted districts. Analysis of mine/ERW incidents show that casualties among civilians and especially among schoolchildren in comparison with previous years decreased noticeably.

Community based activities

Assessment of mine/ERW incidents and casualties in war-torn areas supported MRE specialists to apply a new approach in community based awareness activities. After organizing of intensive dissemination sessions and meetings with local residents the community members began their voluntary activities in mine/ERW contaminated areas. This means, community activists (village spokesman, municipality and executive authority responsible, school principle, medical/health point chiefs, religious/youth organization leader, recreation center director and others) are gathered in a room and have a MRE session by ANAMA officers.

At the end of the sessions one person is selected as a group leader by the volunteers. S/he takes obligations for submitting monthly reports on awareness/risk education activities, performed by the group members in their community, to the district coordinator (a civil defense headquarters (CDH) chief in District Executive Authority Office) at the end of each month. The CDH chief, on its turn, totals all reports, collected from all established MRE committee leaders, and sends to ANAMA HQs.

Funds for the very project during last couple years came from Azerbaijan government. So, up to now 158 ‘MRE Committee’s have been established in 10 targeted districts.

In the previous year, the so called committee members (volunteers) arranged different types of awareness trainings, discussions, talks and meetings for 23 637 residents. About 4 719 units of awareness materials were distributed during these events. Last events showed that the population has become more sensitive than before. They inform immediately the local authority, ANAMA operators, and the police on hazardous findings. In order to make our activities better in this field we arranged trainings for the community members, formed new “MRE Committees” in villages and refreshed the members of the certain groups in some districts. Last year, at the result of attacks by Armenian military forces in frontline and bordering districts of Terter, Aghdam, Fizuli, Agjabedy and Goranboy suffered serious damages, the civilian population got wounded and some residents killed. Understanding the seriousness of the situation together with demining operations we executed awareness and education activities among the locals, set up billboards on the exits and entrances of the hazardous areas.

Thus, 24 mines and 4 019 ERW have been taken and demolished by informing of the local residents and some areas, including some former military bases, marked to protect the people from entering and existing threat.

Large MRE billboards have great impact on public awareness. In the previous year, more than 100 billboards were produced and set up in contaminated hazardous areas and on road sides.

MRE during emergency situations

An explosion happened in the military plant of  the Republic Ministry of Defence in Shirvan city. At the result of explosion thousands of shells exploded and great majority of other ordnance scattered over the area where the local residents live. MRE officers were immediately  sent to the area to fullfil tasks set up by  the newly built state commission. At the first stage risk reduction activities were implemented among the locals nearby, our specialists walked streets one by one, from home to home to aware residents who lived high stress,  feared and were in danger.

So, including children, the awareness work covered all categories of population, together with this they daily reported the found unexploded ordnance and shells, scattered over vast area, to the headquarters established in the yard of the plant.  Altogether, within a month during risk reduction activities executed by MRE especialists 2908 locals were awared and 1446 different types of education materials distributed.

Another explosion in summer happened in the deport of the Republic Ministry of Defence in Khizy district, at the result thousands and thousands of different types of ordnance and shells scattered over the araes of nearby villages.

By the task of newly built comission emergency risk education activities were implemented among the local population who lived around the military deport.

Education activities were conducted at schools, at private houses, in the overcrowded places , in the farms, generally, in all inhabited and non-inhabited corners.

So, in a shortest period of time the inhabitants became safer and the the threats that would happen in future overcame. The education activities covered 9247 residents and 898 different types of materials were distributed among them.

School program activities

Signing of Memorandum of Understanding on integration of MRE into school curriculum by the leaders of the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan Republic, ANAMA and UNICEF allowed resolution of a lot of problems that have been pending for years.

A ‘Methodical Board’ was formed just after signing of MoU. A resolution on development of textbooks for students and manuals for teachers was adopted. The already experienced 16 “Master Trainers”, who had full training course in Baku, began to train local teachers in mine-affected districts applying and using modern training methods.

Altogether, including trainings in previous years, 195 training sessions for 3 635 teachers from 1 200 schools in 26 districts have been conducted. Total of teachers attended during 10 years consisted of 1 200 males and     2 435 females. Every year, 55 000 students in secondary schools have MRE classes. Up-to now, 710 000 students in the secondary schools have been targeted.

Analysis of the incidents in last years show that study of MRE at schools significantly impacted to decrease the number of mine/ERW incidents among children.

We could produce various types of teaching and awareness materials, by the financial support of USEUCOM and UNICEF in previous years. But, financial support for the production of awareness and teaching materials in the current year came from the local government. In the current year, at the result of budget difficulties, we could not re-produce books/manuals and distribute them among the program targeted local schools.

Since 2004 (after signing of MoU), altogether 109 000 textbooks for students and 6 900 manuals for teachers, at the same time various types of awareness materials, have been produced and distributed to education departments. For effective conduction of the lessons, additionally, the selected schools have been provided with different types of training posters, too.

Collaboration with national/international entities

As the scope of ANAMA operations get expanded its cooperation with different organizations and performance of MRE trainings for their staff members become obligatory. At present, ANAMA MRE department owns experienced officers who are able to organize trainings and seminars for staff members of international NGOs and MACs. Thus, the previous years due to effective use of capacity in mine action and MRE related trainings for several groups from Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Georgia were very important and significant.

By the task of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan the Cabinet of Ministers, within the frames of non-military humanitarian assistance to Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, beginning from 2009, ANAMA has continued its activities on different purposes.  So, together with preparation of the specialists on demining affairs, at the same time, by our support, a pilot project on MRE has also been commenced.

After translating of the existing MRE book and the manual into English we tried to finalize the process, so, by the support of Afghani specialists those books were translated into Dari language. For the first time, within the pilot project by the financial support of Azerbaijani Government, we produced 24 000 units of books for students and 1 500 manuals for teachers and delivered to the Republic Ministry of Education and Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA).

Within this program, two ANAMA specialists paid visits to Afghanistan. They had official meetings with ANDMA, Department for Mine Clearance (DMC), and Mine Action Coordination Center for Afghanistan (MACCA) responsible officers, at the same time they came with advantageous, for both sides, suggestions. Later, our specialists visited ANDMA, Ministry of Education and Country Parliament and had significant and important meetings with the officials of those entities too.

A press conference, regarding 'handing over' ceremony of the books financed by the Government  of Azerbaijan within its ‘non-military’ humanitarian support program for Afghani students, was organized in Kabul city which was broadcasted through 5- 6 local TV channels and some other means of media.

According the trip program with the support of DMC and MACCA specialists methodical briefings for 950 teachers (in Kabul city and Parvan province) conducted. So, beginning from the 2010 academic year, integration of MRE into curricula of schools has officially been approved by the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan. We were witnesses of distribution of provided books and taking of MRE classes in targeted province schools.

Additionally, the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan requested for 60 000 more of books (30 000 in Dari and 30 000 in Pashto languages) to be send to them in coming school years which were translated from Dari into Pashto by their local specialists. It is obvious that ANAMA implements the UNDP Mine Action related program that has been agreed with the Government of Azerbaijan and a firm collaboration has been established between two organizations during past years.

Thus, as a rule, by the request of different national and international organizations, MRE officers organize awareness and risk education trainings for their staff members and the members of the entities working for/with them. During these trainings demonstration of ANAMA documentary illustrating all the aspects of mine action activity in the country; MRE officers deliver presentations reflecting safe behavior rules and awareness messages, mine fatalities, injuries, economical damages and showing the number of mine victims and survivors in Azerbaijan.                                               

In the frame of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society (Az.RCS) and ANAMA on collection of mine/ERW incidents and casualties’ data and its exchange, MRE officers attend the yearly seminar held by Az.RCS for the chiefs of district branches in Baku. Together with these we continue firm collaboration with AzRCS and the ICRC. During the current year more than 60 large billboards which produced by our Agency were set up by the representatives of mentioned above organizations in the entrances and exits of hazardous places of front close and borderline districts, at the same time arranged awareness and education talks among the residents around.  As a rule, at the end knowledge of the participants are evaluated and they are provided with awareness materials.

In the previous years, we conducted MRE briefings for the groups from the ICRC, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, at the same time from Croatia Mine Action Center, shared experiences and discussed continuation of bilateral collaboration.

Monitoring and evaluation

After integration of MRE into curricular of schools monitoring of MRE classes in the local schools and assessment of awareness activities, implemented by community volunteers, have been executed jointly with UNICEF, European Command (USA) and Ministry of Education specialists (during 2005-2007). And afterwards this activity has been continued only by ANAMA and Ministry of Education specialist.

As the result of activities, it has been revealed that schoolchildren and adults as well have become more sensitive to existence of mines/ERW; now they report our Agency and local authorities about their hazardous findings. During monitoring and evaluation all the trainees stressed the use of trainings for teachers and the importance and significance of integration of MRE into curricular of schools. 

From the quality point of view, they all appreciate MRE manuals and textbooks, very comprehensive and understandable, readable for the students; with many pictures and illustrations depicting various situations.

As a rule, we commemorate the April 4 - as an “International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Day” which was declared by the UN General Assembly together with our implementing (IEPF and Relief Azerbaijan) NGO partners in targeted districts, especially at schools. Make interviews for local TV channels and radios; speaking about the significance of this day and essence of mine action in general, at the same time hold press conference for mass media at ANAMA HQs.