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 behavior rules and messages among people living in mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) affected areas, at the same time ensuring safety of development and rehabilitation projects from the threat of explosive devices.

MRE activity covers population of 24 districts, 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 residents vulnerable to threat as well, we set up our MRE strategy of:

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

b)  integration of MRE into curriculum of schools in border-close and frontline districts and,

c)  implementation of community based MRE activities.

Formed in 2000, the MRE Working Group (WG), consisting of representatives of the ministries of education, health, defence, social protection, youth and sport; at the same time Republic Children Organization, including international and national entities such as the ICRC, Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines (AzCBL), Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society, civil defense HQs and some other NGOs, supports prioritizing urgent tasks, discusses annual MRE work plan and adopts it.

ANAMA operational groups and support staff regularly conduct educational and awareness related talks, discussions and briefings at the beginning or before field 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 initiatives in communities.

In this regard, ANAMA implementing non-governmental organization partners of ‘Relief’ Azerbaijan and ‘IEPF’ are also responsible for awareness of population along with mine clearance operations. In previous year, the mentioned above groups and NGOs organized 25 trainings, discussions and awareness talks with the participation of 1565 residents and with distribution of 890 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 in provision of the locals, the de-miners and the guests, who visit the operations, with education materials.

As a rule, the representatives of donor countries and ANAMA visitors, within experience exchanging program, often visit schools where students have MRE classes. They have even time to interview teachers at schools, local residents, and parents on the current problem and learn their opinions.

In the 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.

School program activities

Signing of Memorandum of Understanding during the academic year of 2004/2005 on integration of MRE into school curriculum by the leaders of the Republic Ministry of Education, 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, 181 training sessions for 3 635 teachers from 1 200 schools in 24 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, 1 044 000 students in the secondary schools have been targeted.

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

Every year we produce various types of teaching and awareness materials, if this program was financed by USEUCOM and UNICEF in previous years, but now financial support for the production of awareness and teaching materials comes from the local government. Thus, 10 500 manuals and textbooks (for 4th and 6th grade students) and 4 000 units of training posters were distributed among the targeted local schools.

Since 2004, 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. Additionally, for effective conduction of the lessons, the selected schools have been provided with different types of training posters, too.

Community based activities

Assessment of mine/ERW incidents and casualties in war-torn areas has 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 so called groups (MRE Committees) 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 they are trained on MRE 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, came from MRE committee leaders, and sends to ANAMA HQs.

Funds for the very project in the past decade came from ANAMA. 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 14 289 residents. About 1 907 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.

Thus, 15 mines and 529 ERW have been taken and demolished in 2014 only and some areas, including some former military bases, marked to protect local people from entering into hazardous sites and existing threat.

Large MRE billboards have great impact on public awareness. Up today, by the financial support of ANAMA and its donors hundreds of billboards have been produced and set up in contaminated hazardous areas.

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 books and the manual into English, we supported also the Afghani specialists to translate those books into Dari language too and finalized the process. 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 mass media.

According the trip program with the support of DMC and MACCA specialists methodical briefings for 800 teachers (in Kabul city and Parvan province) conducted. So, beginning from the 2010 academic year, integration of MRE into curricula of schools officially been approved by the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan. We witnessed distribution of provided books and taking of MRE classes in targeted province schools.

Additionally, the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan requested for 40 000 more of books to be send to them in coming school year which was 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.

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. Based on the program, the invitees receive also presentations on last casualties, mine victims’ data sheet by years and get break-down analysis of the last incidents. During the seminar, the participants get a chance to work on the newly prepared incident/casualty reporting form prepared by ANAMA specialists. As a rule, at the end knowledge of the participants are evaluated and they are provided with awareness materials.

In order to continue bilateral collaboration, we met representatives from the ICRC, Tajikistan, Afghanisan, at the same time from Croatia Mine Action Center. Held disscussions and briefed the on MRE activities in our country.

Monitoring and evaluation

After integration of MRE into curricular of schools monitoring of MRE classes at local schools and assessment of awareness activities implemented by community volunteers have been executed jointly with (initially by UNICEF, USA European Command representatives) the Republic Ministry of Education specialists. 

While these activities, it has been revealed that schoolchildren and adults as well have become more sensitive to existence of mines/ERW; now they report ANAMA and local authorities about their hazardous findings. During monitoring and evaluation all the trainees stressed the use of trainings for teachers and the importance 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 each year 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.