This past Wednesday, April 4th, I attended a seminar in observance of Landmine Awareness Day. I bet some of you didn’t even know there is such a day! And neither did I until this past week. What truly shocked me is not that a day is dedicated to the awareness of landmines but the information I obtained at that seminar. I had no idea how endemic mines are and how many civilian deaths they cause each year. I, of course, have heard of landmines, but I always thought that these are weapons used in military actions and not something I need to worry about unless I end up in a zone with a military conflict. The lives of many innocent children, women, and men are affected, however, each day by antipersonnel landmines long after a military conflict is over and stronger pressure must be applied to urge those in charge to take action.
I have included below some of the disturbing information I am now privy to and I just feel it is my responsibility to share it with as many people as possible.
1. Landmines were first invented in the 1920s soon after the World War I in response to the tank. The purpose of the anti-tank landmines was to control adversaries without having to expose oneself to them. A problem with the anti-tank mines was that they could be removed easily and as a result, the anti-personnel landmines came into existence.
2. While it costs $3-10 to buy a mine, it could cost up to $1000 to remove one mine.
3. About 800 deaths a month are caused by landmines and of these, most are civilians.
4. About 75% of landmine victims are civilians.
5. The country with the highest estimated number of landmines is Egypt and that is 23,000,000 landmines!
6. The country with the highest estimated number of landmines per square mile is Bosnia & Herzegovina – 152 per square mile! One of the speakers at the seminar, Prof. van Arsdale, who has spent a significant amount of time in Bosnia, provided a grim account of how a landmine changed the life of a family. He emphasized the biggest problem with anti-personnel mines as the fact that they do not distinguish between a soldier and a young woman who is working in her garden. Another horrific characteristic of this military invention is that its purpose is not to kill but to maim.
7. Roughly about 100,000 mines are removed each year.
8. The United States has yet to become a “state party” to the Mine Ban Treaty of 1997. To push for the United States to sign and adhere to the Mine Ban Treaty of 1997, please go to the following page: http://www.avaaz.org/en/obama_ban_mines/96.php
9. For a country to become a “state party,” it must adhere to the following requirements: 1. Agree to never use, develop, produce, stockpile or transfer antipersonnel mines; 2 Agree to destroy all stockpiled antipersonnel landmines within 4 years; 3. Agree to destroy all laid antipersonnel landmines within 10 years; 4. Provide assistance for mine clearance, awareness, stockpile destruction, and victim assistance activities;
At the end of the seminar, all present had the opportunity to watch Surviving the Peace, a film that provides an account of the impact of a landmine on one Laos family and the efforts made by the Mine Advisory Group (MAG) to train people to remove mines. The sad truth the film reveals is not simply that a family became a victim of landmines, but that it became so as a result of a conflict that had nothing to do with that family.