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Land Mine Casualties Jump 75% as Funding for Their Removal Declines


A de-mining operation in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in February. Credit Javed Tanveer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Despite a global treaty that bans land mines, casualties from those weapons and other unexploded munitions lurking in current and past war zones rose sharply last year to the highest point in a decade, a monitoring group said Tuesday in its annual report.

The group, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, also said that financial contributions toward efforts to remove land mines plunged by nearly a quarter last year. It was the third consecutive annual decline in funding, imperiling a pledge by treaty members to complete mine clearance by 2025.

In another setback to the treaty’s goals, the number of countries and areas where land mines are known to exist rose to 64 last year, from 61 in 2014, the report said. It attributed the increase to the use of antipersonnel mines in Nigeria, including improvised mines, and to new data on mines that had already been present in Palau and Mozambique.

The casualty increase was primarily from the armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, according to the report, which said better availability of data on victims was also a factor.

It said that 6,461 people were known to have been wounded or killed by land mines and other explosive remnants of war in 2015. That was a 75 percent increase from 2014 and the highest reported casualty total since 2006’s figure of 6,573.

“The decade-high number of new casualties caused by land mines and unexploded ordnance, and the continued suffering of civilians, more than a third of whom were children, proves again that these indiscriminate weapons should never be used by anyone,” said Loren Persi Vicentic, one of the editors of the annual report, Landmine Monitor 2016.

The land mine treaty, which took effect in 1999, bans the use of mines and other victim-activated explosive devices placed on or under the ground. They are designed to detonate when a person unwittingly walks over them or is nearby, and they can remain lethal even after lying dormant for many years.

Land mines have long posed a safety threat to civilians, particularly children, who step on the explosives or find them, sometimes well after a conflict has ended.

Landmine Monitor 2016 was released in advance of the 15th meeting of countries that have signed the treaty. The meeting is to begin Monday in Santiago, Chile. At least 162 countries have signed the treaty.

Thirty-five countries remain outside the treaty, including China, Russia and the United States. Most of them do not use or produce land mines.

The United States has stated that it will observe the “key requirements” of the treaty with the exception of the Korean Peninsula, where the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South remains one of the most heavily mined areas in the world.

The Obama administration has said that the Defense Department is working on land mine alternatives in the Demilitarized Zone, which presumably would help create the conditions for the United States to join the land mine treaty formally.

The United States remains the world’s leading funder of humanitarian demining work around the world, providing about $ 154 million last year to 40 countries and more than $ 2.6 billion in at least 95 countries since 1993, according to the State Department’s latest annual report on American efforts to eradicate unexploded remnants of war.

Those efforts include disarming and destroying old American bombs from the Vietnam War era that still pose deadly hazards in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Stan Brown, the director of the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, which helps oversee the American-funded demining work, told reporters last week that the agency was sending two observers to the Santiago meeting of land-mine treaty members.

More than 50 countries manufactured land mines before the treaty, a number that has since dwindled to 11. The Landmine Monitor report said the most active producers were India, Myanmar, Pakistan and South Korea.

Source: NYT > World

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