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UNAMID Ordnance Disposal Office wins coveted UN Secretary-General’s award for innovative Darfur project

UNAMID photo.

NEW YORK – UNAMID’s Ordnance Disposal Office (ODO) has been recognized by the UN Secretary-General for a project that is helping to raise awareness in Darfur about the dangers of explosive remnants of war.

The ODO ‘Solar Powered Risk Education Talking Device’ (RETD) project was among a portfolio of four UNMAS projects that received the 2017 Secretary-General’s Award in the ‘Innovation and Creativity’ category.

The award category honours UN staff who have achieved exceptional results by thinking “outside the box” and using creativity, innovative methods, and fresh perspectives to implement ideas or projects which improve our results or the way the UN works.

UNAMID Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Mamabolo, said that the award recognizes ODO’s very considerable achievement in partnership with UNAMID for the protection of civilians in Darfur.

The RETD device is a solar-powered audio talking device which has the ability to play multiple pre-recorded explosive remnants of war awareness materials such as songs, drama, interviews and focus group discussions. It is particularly suitable for use when engaging non-literate people across the vulnerable communities in Darfur.  

Through the application of improved and risk education and innovative methods such as the RETD, at-risk communities across Darfur are able to receive messages in a more cost effective manner. The first phase of the project is designed to benefit 75,000 people and by June 2018 the project will cover over 200,000 at-risk people across Darfur, mainly children and women.

Jeffrey McMurdo, Programme Manager, UNAMID ODO, said that the RETD project aims to disseminate risk education messages widely across Darfur. This includes areas that have traditionally been hard to reach by the national risk education teams, either due to lack of road infrastructure or because of the security situation.

Abel Tesfai, an ODO staff member who developed the project concept, explained that raising awareness through technology is a good fit for insecure areas, with the RETD being an effective tool for reaching isolated communities. 

The award ceremony took place on 24 October – United Nations Day – at UN Headquarters in New York, with ODO being represented by New York-based UNMAS colleagues. The annual awards involved some 120 submissions on inspirational projects that reflect the extraordinary dedication and achievement of UN staff around the globe.

UNMAS began its operations in Darfur in 2005 and through the UNAMID ODO has delivered risk education to conflict-affected populations. They particularly focus on vulnerable groups such as hosting communities, returnees, internally displaced persons and children, along with peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel.