Go to main content

Educating conflict-affected people in Myanmar on the risk and impact of Unexploded Ordnances

Posted on 04 Sep 2022

In December 2020 a villager walking along the Lawt Naw Village tract in Northern Shan State in Myanmar came across an unexploded ordnance (UXO) item near his village. Out of curiosity he picked up the item to examine it further. Unfortunately the UXO was still active and exploded in his hands when he picked it up. The villager lost his life on the spot. People standing around him, watching, were injured and needed medical attention.

This is not an isolated incident in Myanmar, as mines and UXOs have been used and laid in the ground for years – including today in 2022 as active conflict continues in many parts of the country. In 2021, 284 people were casualties of mines/explosive remnants of war (ERW) which were reported and recorded. The actual number could be higher, as many incidences occur in rural areas where there is limited access and health services are few and far between.

The continued threat of UXOs in Myanmar is profound, as 71% of rural communities are dependent on agricultural land as their primary means of income generation and survival. UXOs however are a threat to people accessing and cultivating the land. They are also a threat to people accessing other socio-economic assets safely, such as water points, schools and hospitals. Everyday parents need to make difficult choices – do I risk farming this land? Do I risk sending my child along this path to school to get an education? Or do we not take this risk, but then face hunger and no learning. These choices are hard and have perpetuated the poverty cycle millions of people are trapped in. 

DRC is working in Myanmar to help break one component of this cycle through Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) sessions. After the incident in Lawt Naw Village, DRC teams contacted community members to discuss starting up EORE sessions in the village, as well as surrounding villages. From experience, it is most effective for community members to be part of delivery the sessions – as they have the best access to the area, connection with community members and speak the local dialect. It takes a certain person to take up this task though. The activeness and enthusiasm shown by U Sai made him the perfect person to join the project.

"I am very glad when I am chosen as a Community Focal Point for our village. I was thinking of doing social works which I’m very much interested to. I’m very proud to work with DRC. When I heard that DRC will give an incentive, I was thinking that it’s a win-win situation; by working for a living, I’m also making some good at the same time. I don’t feel like I’m doing my job because I’m paid for, I’m doing it because I’m responsible for it. Besides, there is mine/ERW risk in our surroundings. There was an ERW incident occurred in our village in the past. I would like to take that incident as a lesson learnt and I don’t want that kind of incident to happen in our village again in the future. I’m proud that I can echo what I’ve learnt by conducting Risk Education for our people to adopt safe behaviour."

DRC provided training to U Sai on EORE and how to be a good Community Focal Point for roll out of the sessions. U Sai actively organized community members to attend online EORE sessions (as physical access has been constrained due to COVID-19 and conflict movement restrictions). After participating in a few sessions himself, he was ready and capable to spread EORE messaging further in his and surrounding villages.

U Sai delivering Risk Education session for adults in Mong Wee village in April 2022.

U Sai delivering Risk Education session for adults in Mong Wee village in April 2022.

"In delivering Risk Education activity, I prioritized not only adults but also youth and children. The contents of the sessions are based on the age groups. As an example; stories and examples were used during the children's session. The participants are invited according to village [or] households so that the participants are not overlapped and everyone in the village will receive Risk Education. I’m also proud that when I heard the village elders saying, “You are a good example for youth and we are proud of you doing good deeds for the village."

Raising awareness on the dangers of unexploded ordnances has been very welcomed by the community, as they continue to pose a significant dangers to many people in Myanmar. DRC has been able to implement this project with funding support from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund, however the project is ending this year 2022. Efforts need to continue though to reach more communities and support more Community Focal Points such as U Sai. Continued efforts will hopefully mean one day parents no longer need make a choice between food, education or safety.  

U Sai has successfully been conducting EORE awareness sessions throughout the area. It has not been an easy task however, as U Sai has a disability. Considered as a weakness, U Sai worried he would not be able to complete the task at hand, however with encouragement and coaching from DRC teams he was able to gain self-confidence.

"I worried that I might not be able to do well when I heard that I would have to attend to Risk Education training conducted by DRC. But I was encouraged by DRC HMA teams. I worried a lot when I delivered my very first Risk Education session in the village. Did I do well? Was my presentation fine? Etc., all these thoughts came to my head. DRC HMA teams encouraged and gave advice by phone and in person. By receiving encouragement and advice from DRC HMA teams, my worries reduced and I gained self-confidence in myself."

06 Sep 2022
Joint Statement: NGOs Call for Urgent Funding Surge as Somal…
02 Sep 2022
Danish press release: DRC will commence demining activities…
Read more about Myanmar Asia