By Julius N. Uma
April 19, 2012 (JUBA) - As he dribbles the ball past two opponents, smiles, and passes it to his teammate, it is clear that Gatluak Kual, 29, who has to play basketball in wheelchair, does not see his disability in a negative light.
- Gatluak Kual, the founder of the South Sudan Wheelchair Basketball Association, April 16, 2012 (ST)
Despite losing his leg in 1999 during the civil war with Khartoum, Kual has many hopes and dreams for his future and that of his new nation South Sudan.
Kual fought as a rebel soldier in the two decade-long war in which two million lost their lives and four million forced from their homes. A peace deal in 2005 led to South Sudan’s independence last year.
“First it was a bullet, which ripped through my arm,” he recalls, while showing the scars on his left arm. “Later on, I was hit by a landmine which eventually destroyed my right leg.”
Kual is now the chairperson of South Sudan Wheelchair Basketball Association (SSWBA); an organization that was formed in August last year to promote the sport for those with disabilities.
On the United Nations’ International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on Monday, Kual appealed to the Government of South Sudan and development partners to extend more support to the association and its members.
Mine awareness is still important in South Sudan seven years on from the landmark peace deal.
Speaking at an event organized in Juba, Jurkuch Barach Jurkuch, the Chairperson of Southern Sudan Mine Action Authority (SSMAA) warned of the threat landmines still pose in the region, citing Eastern Equatoria as the country’s worst affected state.
“We still have a lot of work to be done most especially in relation to creating awareness on the dangers and risk associated with landmines. Our people need to be sensitized on these issues,” Jurkuch said during mine awareness day celebrations at Juba One Primary School.
He urged government and development partners to step up demining efforts as South Sudan looks forward to being declared a mine free nation.
The mine action programme currently covers all 10 states of South Sudan, but focuses on the seven states considered to be worst affected by landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXOs). These include, Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Western Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap states.
Over the years, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), which works within the framework of the United Nations Mine Action Office (UNMAO) has coordinated and provided technical support to Mine Risk Education (MRE).
Also, as the lead for mine risk education, UNICEF develops training and promotes best practices as well as supporting the MRE advisory group, composed of a small number of ‘expert’ agencies and individuals that provide guidance to the sector and identify ways to improve effectiveness, efficiency and relevance of MRE within the broader mine action community.
Meanwhile, between 2009 and June 2011, more than 1.3 million individuals reportedly received MRE or awareness on landmine risks directly, through community and school-based activities, thereby reaching out to an estimated indirect audience of 2.5 million through mass media campaigns.