Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Landmines: Landmine clearance saves lives and protects livelihoods in over 40 countries

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)

Achievements have been made but landmines and explosive remnants of war continue to kill or injure thousands of people a year, United Nations officials say in observance of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. With high level interest in the new Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, worldwide efforts to remove landmines and explosive remnants of war are receiving renewed attention by the international community.

"Landmines and explosive remnants of war take a heavy toll on people's livelihoods, countries' economic and social development, and international peace-building efforts," said Jordan Ryan, Director of the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.

"This Day presents an opportunity to revitalize international support for mine action," said Max Kerley, UN Mine Action Service. "We've made impressive progress toward eliminating landmines and explosive remnants of war during 2010. This year will be a very important year for mine action as we continue to strengthen our partnerships with affected countries around the world."

The joint effort by mine-affected countries, non-governmental organisations and the UN to clear mines, provide mine risk education, and destroy stockpiles has helped to reduce the annual number of new casualties to about 4,000—down over 75 percent from a high of 26,000 in 1997. Over 1 million explosive remnants of war were destroyed in Afghanistan in 2010. Over 7,000 kilometres of roads were opened in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Sudan. Nearly 290,000 people in Somalia learnt about landmines and their risks. In Iraq, 18.7 million square meters of land were cleared from late 2007 to July 2010, helping 1,500 families return to their farms, and enabling 2,400 children to go back to school.

"It is essential that we all sustain our efforts to protect vulnerable populations and to rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have survived accidents with landmines and explosive remnants of war," said Susan Bissell, Chief Child Protection, UNICEF. "The Landmine Monitor reported that over 40% of civilian casualties last year were children – a proportion that remains tragically high. This is a problem with a proven solution, and a strong international commitment can, and should, put an end to it once and for all."

UN support to mine action provides services in more than 40 countries and includes building national capacities of national mine action, finding and destroying landmines and explosive remnants of war, assisting victims, teaching people how to remain safe in a mine-affected environment, advocating for universal participation in the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty and other treaties, and destroying stockpiled devices. These efforts also ensure the safe deployment of peacekeepers and other humanitarian and development actors.

Journalists will be able to conduct interview at events here in New York and other cities around the world on or before April 4. The events will raise awareness about landmines, explosive remnants of war and progress toward their eradication.

Events in New York

DeterMined: A joint exhibition by renowned Venezuelan photographer Kike Arnal and renowned Slovenian photographer Arne Hodalic about the impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war on civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lebanon. The exhibit officially opens at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 4, in the Visitors' Lobby of the UN Secretariat Building. Delegates, journalists, United Nations staff and the general public are warmly invited to attend with an rsvp to cruz@un.org. Visitors should enter the grounds at the public entrance on 1st Avenue near 46th Street.

For a list of all events worldwide, visit the UN Mine Action Team's website at www.mineaction.org.