QUT Disaster Management Lecturer helps clear the way for a landmine-free Turkey

Dr Jo Durham (seated second from right) having a cuppa with the local deminers during a break, in Igdir Province, Eastern Turkey, along the Iranian border. The deminers are funded by MECHEM and the overall project is funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP Turkey Country Office.

While some of us spent the pre-Christmas period preparing for festivities ahead, Dr Jo Durham, senior lecturer in Disaster Management at QUT, was on the ground in Turkey, evaluating a landmine clearance project on the eastern borders of Turkey for the UN Development programme.

‘Turkey is one of the most landmine-contaminated countries in the world’ said Dr Durham. ‘Most of the mines were laid between 1955 and 1959 and are along the country’s borders.’

According to Dr Durham, landslides and snowmelt in the mountainous terrain caused some of the mines to drift to often unknown locations.

Locating the minefields is often challenging because many mines were laid decades prior to the advent of accurate geo-referencing technology.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting the Turkish Mine Action Centre (TURMAC) and its partners, to locate and disarm these mines which if left unattended to, pose a significant risk to local people and livestock as well as irregular migrants crossing the border.

Clearing the landmines will also allow Turkey to establish a modern and humanitarian integrated border management system. As a State Party to the Ottawa Treaty for banning of the use of anti-personnel landmines, Turkey is also very committed to demining and developing a national capacity to manage this issue.’

Over the course of her career, Dr Durham has worked in humanitarian aid and development in Laos, Cambodia, South Sudan and Lebanon with organisations such as UNICEF, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Mine Action Services (UNMAS) and international NGOs, to help people recover from conflict and other disasters. Her experience covers areas such as:

  • Reducing health inequities and vulnerability to disasters
  • Social determinants of health and migration
  • Conflict epidemiology
  • Programme evaluation

‘Linking practice with theory is essential to prepare graduates for different careers within the field, and equip them with the skills needed to continue this necessary work and respond effectively in other disaster scenarios,’ said Dr Durham.

If you are likely to be involved in coordinating a response to a major incident or disaster, enrol now to benefit from the real world experience of Dr Durham and others.

Dr Durham teaches four courses each year in the field of Disaster Management:

For more information go to: www.qut.edu.au/health/ph-short

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