Two Million Mines in Sudan!?

I just ran across this claim by the Sudanese Government in April that Sudan was contaminated by two million mines. Surely this can’t be right? First of all, it is practically impossible to estimate how many mines are in the ground.  Second, the ongoing Landmine Impact Surveys indicate that the landmine problem in Sudan has been overestimated. 

Perhaps a good indication of what this is about is the rest of the statement: “the de-mining process is very expensive, it needs a lot of funding.”  Exaggerating the extent of the mine problem in Sudan has often been used as a fundraising strategy — to learn more, read the “Sudan’s Expensive Landmines” report.

Maybe some of the people on the ground in Sudan can post a comment or two to verify whether this number has any basis in reality.

~ by Matthew Bolton on 19 May 2009.

3 Responses to “Two Million Mines in Sudan!?”

  1. Oh, don’t be too hard on them. They learned from the decade-long ICBL scam of stating categorically and with all certainty that there were 110 million landmines in over sixty countries…a figure that didn’t change at all to keep donor funding coming. This figure was picked up by everyone and used even today as if it were fact when it was nothing more than a fabricated guess at a cocktail party. Even with millions of dollars poured into surveys and automation systems like IMSMA, no one dares publish a “real” number or estimate for fear of losing funding. Sorry to have to point out, as Al Gore would call it, the inconvenient truth.

  2. ‘Two million’ landmines is simply a neat figure to choose, rather like the much repeated and equally inaccurate UN figure of ‘100 million worldwide’. There is obviously no way of knowing how many mines are laid in a particular country but there are ways of calculating a ball-park figure: If a country has had level 1 survey or a Landmine Impact Survey performed this will generate a collection of Suspect Hazardous Areas (SHA’s) or for the sake of argument,minefields and a total affected area in metres squared. A well run mine action programme would then target those minefields of the highest priority; which often, but not always will be those minefields that have generated the most victims and more likely than not contain the highest density of mines. A few years into a clearance programme there should be a good cross-sectional sample of completed minefields or cleared SHA’s. Averaging the mines per cleared SHA and multiplying that figure by the number of uncleared SHA’s and you have a ball-park figure of what remains in the ground, add in anything held in stores and you have a figure for mines remaining in the country.

    The landmine Monitor for 2008 reports that the LIS has been completed in 13 of Sudans 25 states and produced 442 SHA’s covering approximately 54km2. Extrapolating a similar problem across the rest of country would give around 900 SHA’s and an affected area of around 108km2.The same report shows that combined mine clearance activities found 4,003 mines from 5.91km2 of area cleared or one mine for every 1,476m2. Dividing 108,000,000m2 (108km2) by 1,476 would give you a total of 73,170 mines. Even allowing for fudge factors and unknown minefields the figure is unlikely to top 100,000.

    Presenting big numbers such as ‘Two million’ is as Mr. Lokey suggests in his post just a way of securing continued donor funding…but it is a fairly poor way of doing it. There is plenty of evidence to suggest growing donor fatigue with regards to mine action funding. Wildly inaccurate and hugely inflated figures when compared to the relatively low and already hugely expensive numbers of mines cleared in Sudan (In 2007 $29 million, 4003 mines or $7,244 per mine) will inevitably compound this fatigue.

    If in fact the money provided to mine action in Sudan is more about nation building and political stability then surely it should be directed to activities that better support those processes – health, education, policing, housing, infrastructure etc.

    Mine action funding should be for mine action, and as such should be based on empirical evidence of the problem and held accountable to key performance indicators such as cost per metre cleared and mines per metre cleared.

  3. In June 2009 UNMAO reported in its monthly IMSMA update that 15,217 AP mines and 3,050 AT mines have been found since clearance operations began in 2002 and this includes a cache of about 4,000 found by the Bangladesh peacekeeping demining team. What is being found are UXO and small arms ammunition that total over one million pieces, something you might expect to find after a 20 year war.

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