30 August 2011

A day in the life of a Lebanese female deminer

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.A typical day at work for Abir Asaad, a 35-year-old Palestinian refugee, begins at around 4.30am. As a member of Norwegian People’s Aid’s (NPA) all-female team of cluster bomb searchers in Lebanon she and her colleagues must start very early to begin work in the fields and hills of southern Lebanon before the hottest part of the day.After saying her prayers and attending to her children Abir changes into her NPA uniform and heavy boots, ready for the day ahead, and whatever dangers it may bring.Abir and her husband Rashid Assad have five daughters: Hoson, who is 17 and engaged to a soldier, Hanan, 15, Suhad, 14, Malak, nine and the youngest, Fadia, who is eight. They live together in a small house in the Buss Palestinian refugee camp in Tyr – a city on Lebanon’s south coast.She has been a Battle Area Clearance (BAC) searcher with the NPA team for the last three and a half years. Every morning she is collected by her colleagues and driven to NPA’s office to meet the other members of the clearance team. There Abir and her friends gather the equipment they will need for the day’s work – their protective clothing and helmet and metal detector – and prepare to leave for the site.It is Abir’s job, along with her colleagues, to search for unexploded cluster bombs on farmland near Tyr. This time she is working on clearing land owned by a local man who is currently having to rent nearby land to grow his crops because his land is too dangerous – before NPA arrived he found 19 unexploded cluster bombs. As son as Abir and her colleagues have cleared his land he will return.After helping to dispose of two unexploded cluster bombs on the farmers’ land, Abir and her colleagues rest on the way back to the office at the end of another long and thankfully accident-free day.She puts away her equipment and heads home, where her role instantly changes back to mother as she gives Malak, her nine-year-old, some medicine for a fever. Helped by 15-year-old Hanan, Abir prepares dinner for her family, which they eat in her bedroom, doubling as the family room. Rashid, her husband, is a painter and builder, but only works during the summer months, so Abir’s income is vital to the family.There are at least 2,897 survivors of cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance including landmines in Lebanon, and hundreds of thousands more throughout the world.Today marks just less than two weeks until governments gather in Beirut, Lebanon for the Second Meeting of States Parties to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (2MSP) from 12-16 September.The CMC is calling on all countries to come to the Beirut conference and show progress in clearing contaminated land, destroying cluster munition stockpiles, and ensuring affected communities receive much-needed assistance. Those who have not yet joined the convention are also invited to attend.