John Doe

If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up.

Mary Taylor

You can have anything you want if you are willing to give up everything you have.

Lebanon, underground hell –

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Experts of the Mining Advisory Committee (MAC)
Experts of the Mining Advisory Committee (MAC)

Haider Maroof twists four stumps from his palm. “I was planting trees in the garden when something exploded. I blacked out and when I woke up I couldn’t see my fingers. They’re gone.”

Maruf later learned that what he had stepped on was an anti-personnel mine. 400,000 are stationed along the border between Lebanon and Israel. Today 80% of contaminated land has been cleared by experts from the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a British non-governmental organization that helps people affected by landmines.

On December 3, 1997, the Landmine Ban Treaty was signed in Ottawa, Canada, an international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. Over time, 164 countries have joined. However, in Lebanon, buried bombs are still being found before the so-called Blue Line drawn by the United Nations in 2000 to mark the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the south of the country. MAG operators arrived a year later. Demining is massive and continues on a daily basis. In 2023 alone, two million square meters of land will be cleared and 10,000 suicide bombs will be defused.

The Arab village of Ellouisi, a barrier that marks the end of Lebanon and the beginning of Israel, sits on the edge of the cut. The land is marked with red, white and black sticks. Red colors indicate potential danger. White colors represent green light. The blacks show where the anti-tank mine was, deactivating the explosives. A large part of the population of Arab Elwisi are Syrian refugees trying to make a living hundreds of kilometers from home. That is why, apart from conservation, there is another fundamental reason to clear the area: agriculture is the main occupation, and farmers desperately want the land cleared so that they can use it.

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Suaad Hoteit has been a part of Mag since 2018. In Lebanon, in addition to the mines, he found love. Her future husband is also a part of this organization. Their life as a couple is a little different from the traditional life. “Every day I take my detector and go out into the field and start looking,” Hoteit told the BBC. “If I see a mine, I call the supervisor to check it. And at the end of the day, instead of the washing machine, I have a blast. It’s been four years so it’s a daily routine. I was scared when I came here, but now I live in danger.

The type of landmine found in the Arabian Peninsula continues to injure and kill in 60 different countries. 15 people die every day around the world. But MAG demining equipment, at least in Lebanon, is well advanced. “Overall we have cleaned 80% of the contaminated land,” explained Hiba Kantur, one of the experts. “We must move forward, and the support of our international donors is what makes this possible.”

Countries such as the United States, France, Norway, the Netherlands and Japan are leading mine action funds. Financial support is vital, but funding is dwindling. In Lebanon alone, they decreased from 17 million euros in 2019 to 11 million in 2023. For this reason, it is difficult to predict how long it will take to clean up the remaining 20% ​​of land.

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