- 16 Dec 2008
- Olympic News
Among its recent initiatives, the IOC, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has launched a project in Azerbaijan to clear outdoor sports areas of landmines. These “safe play areas”, which have been equipped with basic sports equipment, will enable the local youngsters to move freely and thus also promote a healthier lifestyle.
How to play in landmine areas?
The safe play area project was launched in Azerbaijan's frontline regions in 2005. The Nagorny Karabakh region of Azerbaijan was chosen as the site of this project, as even though hostilities were suspended over a decade ago, their deadly legacy lives on in the form of landmines. In the village of Mahmudlu-2, located in the frontline district of Fizuli in the south-western region of Azerbaijan, children who wanted to play outside used to hear: “Be careful!”, “Don't go far from the garden!”, or “Play only around the house!”. Thanks to the creation of safe playgrounds, this is past and the kids of Mahmudlu can play like any other children in the world.
First hand input from kids
Children were closely involved in designing the play areas and offering safety tips for young people living in conflict-affected areas. In Mahmudlu-2, they did even more than that. Ten-year-old Elgun Suleymanly recalls, “When we heard that a playground was to be constructed here, we were very happy and ran towards our school. We were told that we would assist with the construction. We cleared debris from the ground and brought in water and sand in buckets.” For the community leader, Mahmudov, his hope is that “very soon there will be no need to construct safe playgrounds for children”, and that “the whole country will be a safe area, free of mines”. Today, this dream is already a reality for some 3,500 children living in 42 communities in this region of Azerbaijan.