Saturday, 16 January 2021

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Sharp rise in deaths caused by “the equal opportunity killer”

UNMAS Burundi troops demining in Somalia | © UNMAS

04. April 2017 – Although 72% of all land contaminated by mines was cleared as of October 2016, the number of people killed or injured by mines, cluster munition remnants and other explosive remnants of war has increased sharply in recent years.

Today marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

The Day was launched to call for continued efforts to establish and develop national mine-action capacities. Mines are a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, and can also be an impediment to social and economic development and the national and local levels. The theme this year is “Needs driven. People centered.”

“Peace without mine action is incomplete peace,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his message on the International Day.  “I urge all Member States to keep this issue at the top of the international agenda when negotiating peace, when seeking to prevent harm during conflicts, and when deploying emergency humanitarian responses in war zones.”

Minefield in the DRC, 2002 | © UN Photo

In addition to humanitarian mine action response, there is also great focus on removing mines from post-conflict areas. As of October 2016, 64 states and areas were contaminated by antipersonnel mines.

“Most places where armed conflicts take place are contaminated by a variety of explosive hazards. They are equal-opportunity killers, whether landmines, improvised explosive devices, artillery shells or cluster bombs. When triggered, they kill indiscriminately, soldier or civilian, male or female, old or young,” according to Daniel Craig, the UN Global Advocate for the elimination of mines and explosive hazards.

The vast majority (78%) of the recorded casualties were civilians, and the increase in casualties is linked to the armed conflicts in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen. In 2015, children accounted for 38% of all civilian casualties.

“What once needed a tank to be detonated can be triggered by a child jumping a rope. They kill and maim, they wreck lives. Their presence, real or perceived, curtails freedom, freedom to play and go to school, freedom to collect food and water. We must join forces to defeat these deadly devices and win the fight against fear and inhumane suffering,” says Craig.

Innovation in the area of landmine clearance has made it safer to clear mines. According to Apopo, a mine rat can clear 200m2 in an hour. It would take humans two days to do the same.

In Syria, UNMAS is working directly with organizations to help find the most suitable and safest way to clear land of mines.

Mines are still being used in conflict situations, and more efforts and funding is needed to save lives and assist those affected by landmines. 

Mine action establishes the foundations for lasting recovery and development.

“No one should have to live in fear of dying even after the fighting stops,” says the UN Secretary-General in his message.

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