One of the most important aspects of peace building in post-conflict situations is increasing human security by clearing the geography of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Landmines are frequently used in both international and intrastate conflicts, and their legacy is a deadly one.
The Problem with Landmines
The devastating problem with landmines is that they do not discriminate between soldiers and civilians. While they are used during conflict for strategic military purposes, their deadly wrath continues to inflict pain and suffering on civilian populations long after conflict has ended. In fact, according to the United Nations, landmines are at least ten times more likely to kill or injure a civilian after a conflict than a soldier during hostilities.
Landmines are not the only weapons that wait for innocent civilians to disturb their slumber. Cluster bombs also contribute to civilian insecurity and suffering both during and after conflicts. Cluster bombs are dropped from an aircraft and consist of large containers, which break open after they are launched and disperse smaller bombs over a wide area. While these smaller bombs are intended to explode before or upon ground impact, up to 26% of them do not. Essentially, these unexploded bombs wait silently on the ground like landmines to be set off by unsuspecting civilians for years or even decades to come.
Landmines and unexploded cluster bombs not only create fear among war affected communities, they also strain medical resources, render valuable land useless, deny access to water, food, firewood, and roads, they kill livestock, impede humanitarian assistance, exacerbate poverty, prevent the return of refugees and displace persons, and hinder reconstruction and development efforts.
The Impact of Landmines and UXO in Afghanistan
While it is estimated that landmines seriously affect over 90 countries worldwide, Afghanistan is one of the most severely impacted. Enduring over 23 years of war, Afghanistan is riddled with landmines and UXO. It has been reported that 2,500 communities are impacted by mines and UXO in an area of land totaling 1.3 billion square meters, including over 800 million square meters of minefields, and 500 million square meters of battlefield areas. All of this mine contamination continues to be a major hindrance to economic rehabilitation and development in the country.
The Ottawa Convention
In an effort to end the suffering caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance, The International Coalition to Ban Landmines consisting of 143 states and numerous civil society organizations pushed through The Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personal Mines and on their Destruction in 1997. Also known as the Ottawa Convention, this Convention called for a complete international ban on the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of anti-personal landmines, as well as the destruction of existing stockpiles. While the Convention has been signed and ratified by many states, some of the main countries responsible for the manufacturing and distribution of weapons have yet to sign or ratify it.
A major positive outcome of the Ottawa Convention was the increased support and training for humanitarian de-mining activities. Despite the fact that it is one of the most dangerous professions in the world, over 37 million anti-personnel mines have been cleared and destroyed. Each mine that is cleared and destroyed contributes to the return to peace, safety, and normalcy for populations recovering from war.
- Landmine Monitor Report 2003 estimates that there are approximately 200 – 215 million anti-personnel mines stockpiled by 78 countries.
- Each year, 15,000 to 20,000 civilians are killed or maimed by landmines worldwide. Many are children.
- During October 2001 and March 2002 military operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. dropped more than 1200 cluster munitions containing nearly 250,000 small bombs.
War Child Projects that Make a Difference
To learn more about what War Child Canada is doing to assist war affected children and communities, visit our international projects page here: http://www.getloud.ca/en/gpi_project.asp
Want to Find Out More?
1. The International Committee of the Red Cross: Weapons and International Law
2. Mines Action Canada: Ban Landmines Now
3. International Campaign to Ban Landmines: Landmine Monitor