Saving Lives Through Art – Mine Risk Awareness in Gaza – Occupied Palestinian Territory

The people of Gaza are no strangers to danger and misery. Over the past fifteen years, this densely populated strip of land has endured four major military operations and countless outbreaks of violence and unrest. In addition, economic hardship and crippling restrictions on the movement of people can make daily life difficult.

But another danger, often invisible, lies in wait for this vulnerable population. Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) – bombs, landmines and other unexploded ordnance that have not exploded and still pose a fatal risk of detonation. The exact number of UXOs littering Gaza is unknown, but the risk to communities is real. It is alarming that over the past three years at least one UXO-related accident has been reported every month in Gaza. In recent years, teams of specialists from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (CRP) and the Gaza Ministry of Education have worked with communities in Gaza, alerting them to the dangers of UXO and helping them stay safe. So far, more than 130,000 Gazans have benefited from such sensitization sessions.

In cooperation with the SCRP, the ICRC aims to increase risk awareness within the community and encourage safer behavior (RASB) through its mine risk education (MRE) activities. Art and cultural events are an effective way to achieve this. Theater, art and even graffiti have proven to be effective means of conveying important messages to communities. The plays were particularly successful. Co-organized with volunteers from the Palestinian Red Crescent, a recent play that aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of UXO drew an audience of 600 people and countless others online through the live broadcast on the Crescent’s platforms. Rouge and the ICRC.

“The PRCS and the ICRC continue to work together to raise awareness of the dangers of UXO in Gaza,” said Reham Fathi, a PRCS volunteer. “We have found that theater is one of the best ways to reach people from different backgrounds. The interactivity of a play adds another dimension to our more traditional outreach programs. It is very gratifying to see public reaction, ”she added. Additionally, talented PRCS volunteers, in cooperation with the Gaza Municipality, created eye-catching graffiti on the walls of a main junction in Gaza City as another way to raise awareness of the UXO threat. In addition, the ICRC and SCRP have joined forces and distributed 2,000 coloring books to children in the Gaza Strip, helping them understand the risks of UXOs that could possibly lurk in their playgrounds and gardens.

“Children in Gaza are particularly susceptible to being killed or injured in UXO crashes,” said Hisham Abu Al Ajeen, a PRCS volunteer. “They often mistake unexploded bombs or other ammunition for toys or something that interests them. By using tools such as coloring books, it is easier for them to understand the dangers of UXO and to be more vigilant in the face of dangers, ”he added. Ridding the Gaza Strip of these dangers will take many years, if not decades. In the meantime, educating people about the risks is crucial. “PRCS-ICRC sensitization sessions in schools are essential,” added Al Ajeen. Knowledge and awareness can really save lives. “

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