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UN Calls For Efforts To Halt Child Landmine Deaths

UN Calls On Southeast Asia To Redouble Efforts To Halt Child Landmine Deaths

With landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) continuing indiscriminately to maim and kill children across Southeast Asia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling on regional governments to redouble their efforts to clean up the devastating waste from decades of war.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to landmines and UXO,” senior UNICEF official, Patrick Hennessy told a three-day Regional Workshop on Mine Clearance and Victim Assistance in Southeast Asia, which opened yesterday in Bangkok, Thailand.

“They like to explore, they like to play with objects they find and they cannot read signs warning them of danger. Children also frequently undertake household tasks that involve going near or through mine-affected areas. In Viet Nam, they account for half of all mine-related injuries and one-third of all deaths,” he added.

The region contains some of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Landmines and UXO are a danger to children in nearly half of all villages in Cambodia and nearly one-quarter of all villages in Laos. Up to 800,000 tons of UXO and 3.5 million landmines still cover Viet Nam, where over 100,000 people have been killed or injured since 1975.

The effect on children is particularly vicious. Some 85 per cent of youngsters who step on landmines die before they reach hospital. Those who survive are often denied their basic rights. They are excluded from school and left with little chance to marry, find work or contribute to their families and societies. Rehabilitation clinics are often too far away or too expensive to access, although children need more care than adults. As they grow, new prostheses need to be fitted regularly, and a child survivor may have to undergo several amputations, since bone grows more quickly than surrounding tissue.

The workshop is being hosted by the Thai Government as part of preparations for the First World Summit on Landmines in Nairobi, Kenya, from 29 November to 3 December, which will focus on clearing/marking mined areas, educating people at risk, destroying stockpiles, providing assistance to landmine victims and universalizing ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty, already ratified by 141 states.

Conflict-related injuries represent the fourth leading cause of all fatal injuries worldwide. Twenty countries are attending the workshop: Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Norway, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and Viet Nam.

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