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The Personal Stories of Humanitarian Heroes

by Mike Fryer | @MAGsaveslives | MAG (Mines Advisory Group)
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 10:26 GMT

Achaoulatou (right) works for MAG in Mali. [Photo: MAG Mali]

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

World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, honours those who died in the service of humanitarianism, and celebrates the spirit that inspires humanitarian action around the globe.

Below are some of the personal stories from MAG's staff in Mali and Laos:

Mossa Oyahitt, Community Liaison Team Leader, Mali

"I chose to be an aid worker because my country has experienced armed conflict. Now, I helping my community and my country. My job is to educate individuals and communities affected by conflict, so that they know how to protect themselves against landmines and explosive remnants of war.

"This awareness is essential, because accidents due to these devices can have devastating effects on the lives of victims and their communities.

"The most memorable moment I've had so far was when a woman who had attended a risk education session I had given came to thank me some time later. She told me that her four-year-old daughter had picked up a shell, thinking it was a toy.

"The rest of the family wanted to tamper with it to find out how it worked. But this woman, thanks to the awareness session she had received, knew it was not a toy but a shell.

"She asked the family members present to move away, and her daughter to put it slowly and carefully on the ground. Then she called the Malian army, who came to dispose of it. Her actions meant that nobody got injured."
Phetmany Nanthalangsy, Community Liaison Officer, Laos

"From a very young age I knew that where I lived was contaminated with a lot of leftover bombs. There was an accident 300 metres from my house when I was a boy. Two 14-year-old boys threw a ‘bombie’ (the local name for a cluster submunition) – one boy was killed and the other injured.

"Now I know I can do something to help people, cutting the risks of future accidents and opening up agricultural land for communities.

"My main tasks are liaising with the communities and collecting data on unexploded ordnance. Based on this information we are able to prioritise [which land to clear first]. Priority is mainly given to farming areas, because people need to work the land.

"I’m happy and really like working for MAG. I’m now able to earn enough money to send both my sons to school."
Achaoulatou Moussa Maïga, Community Liaison Officer, Mali

"Becoming an aid worker was a dream that finally came true. I wanted to support communities affected by war, famine and poverty. To me this is the most noble work.

"I'm a Community Liaison Officer, so my job is to educate and inform people about the risks posed by explosive remnants of war. I often see children amputated by explosive remnants of war, it's hard for me to watch and not help.

"The most rewarding thing about my job is to see that, through my work, I can often save lives or help people avoid accidents.

"One example was in July 2013 when, by raising awareness about the dangers of explosive remnants of war, I saved the life of an eight-year-old child. This boy had begun playing with an explosive device in Mopti, but then remembered our conversation and realised the danger."
To find out more about MAG's work around the world, please go to www.maginternational.org.