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Have You Ever Dropped A Glass On The Floor And It Did Not Break?

by Brenda Floors, Community Liaison Manager, MAG Libya | MAG (Mines Advisory Group)
Thursday, 20 February 2014 11:38 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Two-and-a-half years after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Libya continues to suffer from a wide proliferation of explosive items and small arms that threaten civilians.

Amongst those most at risk of coming into contact with landmines, arms and ammunition left behind after fighting are curious children, people wanting to protect themselves, and scrap collectors looking to make a living.

One person who our Community Liaison staff talked to in the city of Misrata told us of a recent incident involving her brother’s weapon, which went off accidentally inside the house; luckily, nobody was hurt.

Another woman had a less fortunate story: her brother-in-law was killed in his backyard, when the bullet he fired in the air to shoot a bird fell down and hit him straight in the heart.

MAG’s Community Liaison programme protects Libyans of all ages and backgrounds by discouraging risk-taking behaviour and promoting safety. This ‘Risk Education’ can take many forms, depending on who the safety messages are aimed at, including presentations, media campaigns, leaflets, video, songs and games.

Earlier this month, 52 volunteers who are being trained by International Medical Corps to help and provide basic medical services at community centres throughout Misrata, took a day off from their studies to attend a Risk Education session – to benefit themselves and their families, plus the people they’d be meeting in their new roles.

"Many of the people coming to our centres have been in accidents involving landmines or UXO [unexploded ordnance], and SALW [small arms and light weapons], and still don’t fully understand the danger," says IMC’s Mohamed Salama.

"After this [training by MAG], our volunteers are better equipped to raise awareness on these risks, and hopefully prevent others from losing their limbs or their lives."

At the session, Khadija, one of MAG’s most experienced Community Liaison specialists in Libya, repeats the message that you should never move or tamper with UXO or SALW. Some of the audience look a bit puzzled at this. One woman recalls how her husband would carry a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) from one room to another without anything going wrong.

"Have you ever dropped a glass on the floor and it did not break?" asks Khadija. Many women nod. "Does that mean that glass will not break the next time you drop it?"’ All the women now smile and shake their heads. Khadija’s capacity to make the risk education sessions comprehensible for any audience is one of her biggest strengths.

Houda Bin Salah*, one of the participants, told us afterwards: "This is what our young boys and our men need to hear. I hope that MAG can come to all our schools, colleges and universities and talk to our sons, as they are most at risk."

In January 2014 alone, MAG’s Community Liaison team in Misrata gave 70 of these safety awareness sessions, to 1,548 people, including 1,017 boys and girls.

Additionally, the distribution of Risk Education materials, such as posters, brochures, and children’s colouring pictures and story booklets, has ensured that a further 21,987 friends and family members have also benefited.

 MAG began its Community Liaison programme in Misrata in July 2012 and will continue to work with the IMC and other organisations and institutions to raise awareness on the dangers of mines, UXO and SALW. Our Community Liaison teams work alongside MAG’s Mine Action Teams, which engage in Battle Area Clearance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Libya.

For more on MAG's work in Libya, please go to www.maginternational.org/libya.