Peru and Ecuador Strenghten Their Humanitarian Demining Capabilities
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo December 11, 2017A group of nine members of the Peruvian Army and three officers from the Ecuadorian Army’s 68th Engineering Battalion Cotopaxi attended the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) course. The computerized course was taught at the Peruvian Army Humanitarian Demining School in Chiclayo, October 23rd–27th, 2017.
“IMSMA is not a closed system. We can recreate our own [pages] to collect, systematize, and update all information in the data registry for danger areas that were swept through,” Peruvian Army First Lieutenant Joanna Herrera, IMSMA system chief, told Diálogo. “It’s like a tree, whose branches are fed until we get to the top [the administrator], the person who provides the right information for decision-making at the local and national levels.”
The United Nations endorses IMSMA as an information system for mine action data collection, information analysis, and program management. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining developed the information system to help make mine action safer, faster, and more efficient.
The software provides a geographic view of the data so that project results are measurable and easy to manage. IMSMA allows the user to be certain of mines clearance in countries party to the Ottawa Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production, transfer, and destruction of anti-personnel mines.
The knowledge Peruvian and Ecuadorian service members gained in information management enhances other training and specialization program initiatives for similar demining procedures. According to IMSMA, the system is installed in 47 nations. It is the primary software in mine action around the world.
Peru and Ecuador actively advocate South America as a mine-free territory. “This is evidence that we remain firmly committed to move the process forward,” Efraín Baus, president of Ecuador’s National Center for Humanitarian Demining, stressed in a press release. “Both nations want to change together to establish a zone free of anti-personnel mines along their shared border,” Martha Lizárraga, director of Defense and Security for the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.
The Ecuadorian Army Corps of Engineers runs the Humanitarian Demining Unit that cleared 80 percent of the mines buried on Ecuador’s border. According to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense, they expect to clear the remaining 20 percent by December 2022.
In 2017, Ecuadorian units destroyed close to 12,000 anti-personnel mines, 74 anti-tank mines, and the remnants of 27 war explosives in the border provinces of El Oro, Loja, Morona, Zamora, and Pastaza. Squadrons used manual, mechanical, and canine demining techniques for the work.
The Peruvian Army’s Directorate General of Humanitarian Demining (DIGEDEHUME, per its Spanish acronym), in partnership with the Peruvian Center for Anti-personnel Mine Action, removed 790 mines in 2017. From January 2009 to December 2015, Peruvian service members destroyed more than 18,200 anti-personnel mines. Authorities estimate that more than 6,300 explosive devices remain buried in the departments of Amazonas, Cajamarca, and Loreto. Peru is stepping up its efforts to finish demining the entire country by 2024.
“The training for both countries’ demining personnel, the emergency medical evacuation route to Ecuador for Peruvian deminers, and the joint annual humanitarian demining operations program are beneficial initiatives that drive our efforts to complete this work,” Peruvian Army Colonel Guillermo Portillo Carrillo, executive director of DIGEDEHUME, told Diálogo. “It’s very satisfying to exchange knowledge and experiences with our Ecuadorian counterparts to strengthen security on our shared border to benefit border populations,” 1st Lt. Herrera said.
Peru and Ecuador participate in reciprocal training exercises, including the Basic Demining Program, Humanitarian Demining Management, and Explosives Destruction and Battlefield Clearance. Since 2014, the Peruvian Army trained 100 Ecuadorian soldiers in various humanitarian demining programs. “They come to hone their techniques. It’s a kind of exchange that results in the same doctrine taught [by the U.S. Army in 2003],” Col. Portillo said.
The exchange of information on danger areas has also been an important tool to plan operations between Peru and Ecuador. Both nations’ armed forces share maps and diagrams to locate buried explosive devices with maximum speed and accuracy.
“When operating in a danger area, the information is not accurate at first, because 22 years have gone by since the explosive devices were planted there. The ground shifted,” Col. Portillo said.
The tools and joint efforts facilitate humanitarian demining operations on both sides of the border. “This work will continue until the last mine is removed,” Col. Portillo concluded. Peru and Ecuador plan to conclude the destruction of mines within one square kilometer of Tiwintza, on the border between the two countries, in 2018.