Lebanon Mine Clearing Program Wins Nansen Refugee Award

The British head of the U.N. Mine Action Program in southern Lebanon, Christopher Clark, and his 990-member team of mine clearers will receive the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award. The U.N. refugee agency says the prize recipients are being honored for their courageous work in clearing tons of deadly munitions leftover from Israel's war with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. Lisa Schlein reports from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.  

The war only lasted five weeks, but it caused incalculable damage. During that period, more than two million explosive bomblets from Israeli cluster munitions were scattered over southern Lebanon, according to the United Nations.  

More than 750,000 Lebanese fled their homes in the south to safer places in the country and another quarter of a million people fled to Syria or further afield.  

U.N. refugee spokeswoman Astrid Van Genderen Stort says it is thanks to Christopher Clark and his team of de-miners that these refugees and internally displaced people have been able to return to their land.

"It was very important for UNHCR because we could bring our refugees and internally displaced back in safety and dignity," said Astrid Van Genderen Stort. "Of course it is still something that is going on because clearing a big piece of land, the whole of southern Lebanon of so many bomblets is an incredible job and they are still ongoing with it. But in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced have been able to return back."  

In 2003, the U.N. Mine Action Program in southern Lebanon, headed by Christopher Clark, began clearing landmines, unexploded ordnance and other remnants of war left over from previous conflicts.

Genderen Stort tells VOA by July 2006, they had cleared most of southern Lebanon.

"And, then suddenly the war broke out and in a period of five weeks all the work that they had done, but, suddenly there were between 2.6 and four million new cluster bomblets, which is a totally different thing from landmines and unexploded ordnance," she said. "They look different. They are very small. They can hang in the trees. They can be hidden in the garden. In Lebanon, I saw a lot of the bomblets in the agricultural fields and tobacco fields and that is, of course. If people can return home, but they cannot work, they are basically blocked."

The Nansen Prize is named after Norwegian explorer, author and Nobel Laureate Fridtjof Nansen, who was the first High Commissioner for Refugees.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs