International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action 2015
Anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) are a malign presence across the world. They continue to do great harm long after conflicts have ended and peace agreements signed. In the past decade, over 50,000 people have lost limbs or lives to these weapons.
The International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action is observed throughout the world on 4 April every year. It serves as a reminder to the international community to help establish and develop national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and ERW are a serious threat to the safety – even the lives – of civilians or an impediment to social and economic development.
In late 2013 and early 2014, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent five photographers to five countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Laos, Mozambique and Nicaragua – to document the human toll exacted by mines and other ERW. The images capture both the dedicated work of those involved in clearance operations, and the anguish and resilience of survivors.
Since 1993, the United Nations and various non-governmental organizations, including the HALO Trust, Handicap International, Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development and Norwegian People’s Aid, have been steadily demining Mozambique in collaboration with the National Institute of Demining. Mozambique hopes to complete demining operations in 2015 – a significant achievement in this once heavily mine-affected country. However, the needs of mine victims will remain. Government estimates put the number of casualties at 10,900.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Landmines and other ERW continue to be a source of great concern in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their presence dates primarily from the 1993-1995 war in the former Yugoslavia. They contaminate some 1,263 square kilometres and have caused 8,075 recorded casualties, of whom more than 5,800 survived.
Iraq is heavily contaminated with landmines and other ERW, the result of decades of armed conflict and sectarian violence. The number of survivors of mine/ERW-related incidents is estimated to be anywhere between 48,000 and 68,000. Its commitments under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention require Iraq to try to rid its territory of all anti-personnel mines by 1 February 2018.
Between 1963 and 1972, during the Vietnam War, at least 270 million cluster submunitions were dropped on Laos. Tens of millions of them failed to detonate. Over 20,000 Laotians have been maimed or killed by cluster submunitions since the official end of the war in 1973. About 80% of the country’s 6.8 million citizens are subsistence farmers, which means that thousands of them are daily farming land dangerously contaminated with cluster submunitions and other unexploded ordnance.
Nicaragua ratified the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in 1999. The civil war of the 1980s left 16 of its 17 provinces mine-affected, particularly rural and impoverished areas. In 2010, Nicaragua was declared mine-free, having cleared over 179,000 anti-personnel mines from its territory and half a million pieces of unexploded ordnance. All of Central America is now mine-free – a major advance in the fight to rid the world of anti-personnel mines. There should be no new landmine victims in Nicaragua, but at least 1,200 survivors of landmines and ERW will continue to require assistance.
The ICRC is active in mine-clearance efforts in many other countries, such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iraq, Myanmar, Niger, Pakistan, Peru, South Sudan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Yemen. It collects and analyses data, and surveys and clears landmines and other ERW; it also undertakes activities in connection with risk reduction and risk education. In addition, victims of landmines and ERW benefit from physical rehabilitation, surgical care and economic security programmes provided by the ICRC.
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