Over the past 25 years, about 7,923 Egyptians fell victim to landmines; 3,200 died and 4,723 were injured. Listed as the country most contaminated by landmines in the world, Egypt suffers more than 20% of the total number of landmines in the world, approximately 23,000,000.
In an effort to ease the situation, Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr opened the first center for artificial limbs in Marsa Matrouh Governorate, Northwest Egypt, which serves landmine victims in the Northwest coast.
The establishment of the center began a year and a half ago, at a cost of US $200,000, donated by the European Union. The EU also provided training for young cadres to be able to work in the center.
"This project opens up prospects for development in the Northwest coast and provides a better life for the people of the region. It also restores the rehabilitation and integration of mine victims in the community, pouring into achieving the objectives of sustainable development in Egypt," said UNDP Resident Representative El-Mostafa Benlamlih
The minister asserted government's interest in clearing all landmines, as well as achieving comprehensive and sustainable development in the Northwest coast area.
Indeed, efforts did not stop at the limbs center. Recently, 95,000 acres have been cleared of landmines and US $3.5 million of equipment have been provided for the armed forces cleansing operations, according to a ministry statement. The International Cooperation Ministry is working to intensify its efforts and speeding up the landmines clean-up, turning the land into areas that accommodate sustainable projects, providing jobs and developing the region.
For that purpose, the minister delivered US $1 million worth of projects and funds to landmine victims. Water well deeds, commercial kiosks with the products to be sold, poultry breeding projects, a small agricultural industries center for the production of a high-quality olive oil line, and grants worth EGP 500,000 for wounded victims were handed over. In addition, 40 women received sewing machines to support their families' income.
Prior to Matrouh, Minister Wali had visited the Al-Alamein area. Located slightly over 100km west from Alexandria, two major Second World War battles took place at Al-Alamein. In 1942, axis and allied forces met in a confrontation in Al-Alamein that eventually led to the German surrender in North Africa in May 1943.
Landmines were laid by the German forces led by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to cover his withdrawal from Al-Alamein and prevent pursuit by the allied forces. About 17m pieces of unexploded mines are still in the area, according to Egypt's State Information Service.
The minister oversaw mine-clearing operations, and met a number of victims. The ministry contributed to purchasing 1170 pieces of equipment worth US $12 million, in addition to the allocation of US $5.5 million to help those affected by landmines in Al-Alamein.
Wali called on Egypt's developmental partners to grant funds for the remaining 250,000 acres with unexploded landmines.
Following the opening of the Masra Matrouh center, British Ambassador to Cairo John Casson said that the United Kingdom has given the Egyptian government all recorded maps related to the placement of landmines in the western desert since the Second World War. Casson told state-run news agency MENA that the UK presented about US $10m for the removal of landmines from Egypt's western desert and for the development of awareness campaigns for residents over the past 10 years.
One of the developmental partners is the United States Agency for International Development in Egypt, whose director Sherry Carlin asserted that the agency will continue to provide support to cleanse Egypt of landmines, as well as help the victims and run campaigns to educate children about landmine risks. "We hope that the northwest coast becomes a safe place to live," Carlin said.
Photo: Kenny Lam // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0