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Landmines: International Day For Mine Awareness

International Day for Mine Awareness

Photo: Australian Red
Cross/S.SaoLandmines continue to kill around the world. More than a decade after the 1997 Ottawa Convention on landmines came into force, 159 countries have signed on to destroy their stocks of anti personnel landmines and are attempting to demine areas of land. Yet dangers still remain for those living in mined areas.

April 4 was declared International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action by the UN in 2006 to raise awareness about landmines and to continue the progress towards their eradication.

Events are held around the world to spread information about the dangers of landmines and the importance of demining activity.

Right now:

* Nearly six thousand people were killed or injured by landmines in 2007

* Half a million mine survivors are living in need of support

* Around 174 million mines are still waiting to be destroyed

Landmines remain a serious barrier to development in countries such as Cambodia and Uganda. Even when they are not fatal, they strip people of the ability to work and often harm children. Farmers and labourers face daily risks as they work on mined land, but the need for an income means that they continue to work.

An ongoing threat

In Cambodia from 1978 until the end of 1989, around six million landmines were laid in a 700-kilometre strip, mostly along the Thai-Cambodia border. Millions of cluster bombs and more than a million tons of general purpose bombs were dropped on the south-east of the country during the 1960s. Cambodia remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

Red Cross works to deliver assistance to landmine survivors in Cambodia through the Landmine Survivors Assistance Program, providing healthcare, prosthetics and micro-loans for business. The program helps landmine survivors by enabling them to earn an income and be physically independent. This eases the burden on their families, and will help the Cambodian Government with the management and provision of disability services.

The threat of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions, accompanies the threat of landmines in many post-conflict countries. Cluster munitions are particularly dangerous as they can disperse explosive submunitions (bomblets) over very wide areas and civilian casualties can be very high when these weapons are used in populated areas.

Currently there is discussion within the international community to establish a treaty which will ban the use of cluster munitions by the end of 2008; commonly known as the Oslo Process. Red Cross is deeply concerned about the effects cluster munitions have on civilian populations.

ENDS

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