24 March 2011 - The Norwegian People's Aid in collaboration with the UN Mine Action Office handed over a demined, 1.5 million square metre area of land to local authorities in Lainya County, Central Equatoria State.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) programme manager Terje Eldon said that land mines are a threat to human life and expressed his delight that the land had been returned to the people of Lainya County.
"I know that some of you people sitting here today have lost friends and family members in the minefields just outside the town," Mr. Eldon said. "You are moving from fear and insecurity toward safety and the possibility of building your new town in this cleared area."
Site manager Jackson Male said 49,895 landmines and unexploded ordnance had been removed from the land since NPA began work in the county in 2006.
Tim Horner, UN Mine Action Office Deputy Director in Southern Sudan, congratulated NPA and it donors – Germany, Norway, United States, and Japan – for their tremendous support of the eradication of landmines in the southern region of Sudan.
"We in the United Nations will remain...committed to pursuing our efforts to supporting those who have been affected by landmines and unexploded remnants of war," Mr. Horner said.
The Acting Lainya County Commissioner John Ponsiano said the cleared land would be demarcated and returned to the local community, who were uprooted and moved to a different location before the demining work commenced five years ago.
"What you have done to the people of Lainya is not only to save their lives but also to contribute to the development of the county as a whole," he said.
Speaking on behalf of the community's female residents, Ludia Koropo Matayo said that she was happy because they could cultivate, collect firewood, and construct houses on the land again.
The survivor of a 1996 landmine detonation also voiced his satisfaction over the conclusion of the demining exercise. "I am so happy that the land on which I was struck by the landmine is cleared," said resident Samuel Lupai Ladu. "Landmines are real and dangerous, so people should learn from my experience."
Mr. Male urged the community to look for and report any ammunition encountered in their vicinity to local authorities for immediate action. Declaration of an area as free from landmines does not mean their complete eradication, he added.