Land Mines – the silent killer that just won’t go away – we have all heard terrible stories of the lasting impact of land mines, but the bigger picture of this awful issue is not always realised. The following facts may come as a shock awakening which will hopefully cause more people to stand up against the production of land mines, support efforts to clear them and assist the victims and their families.
The Mine Ban Treaty of 1997 defines an antipersonnel mine as: “a mine designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.” (Article 2.1)
1. More specifically, a land mine is a bomb, hidden below the surface of the ground, usually made of plastic or metal. They contain explosives and often pieces of metal designed to inflict extra injury. They may be activated by direct pressure from above, by pressure put on a wire attached to a pull switch, or even just by the proximity of a person within a predetermined distance. They are indiscriminate killers which kill and maim innocent civilians across the globe every single day.
2. They harm people in many ways, typically destroying one or more limbs. Metal and debris is often embedded into the wound. Burns, blindness and other life-long injuries are also common.
3. On average 5,000 people are killed by land mines each year. This is either as a direct result of the blast, due to loss of blood or because they don’t get to medical care in time. Hospital care in some of the poorest countries afflicted with land mines also affect the survival rate. Victims often require extensive treatment, including amputations and multiple operations.
4. Million of land mines are hidden in the ground in 78 countries.
5. Around 80% of those harmed by land mines are civilians.
6. Between 30-40% of land mine victims are under 15 years of age.
7. Children are often victimised, some never return to school. They require a new prothesis to be fitted each year, which is very costly for families in some areas. Often child victims of land mines are not considered fit to marry and are shunned by their communities.
8. The positioning of land mines is often not accurately documented, plus rain and floods can mean that they shift over time. This means that there is no way of knowing the exact locations of mines, and anyone can be affected.
9. Often the very soldiers who are tasked to set these weapons are harmed by them. It is questionable whether they really give any military advantage. According to a Red Cross Study “their use in accordance with military doctrine is time-consuming, expensive and dangerous and has seldom occurred under combat conditions.”
10. Land mines were first used on a wide scale in World War 2, and since then have become a regular choice of weapon, typically placed along land the borders countries or areas in conflict.
11. They were initially designed to damage enemy tanks – and considered a strategic form of defense.
12. The intention was to maim victims rather than kill them, as more resources would be needed to care for a wounded soldier.
13. More recently they have been used to control and terrorise communities, by preventing access to farm land for example.
14. The United States has a stockpile of around 10.4 million anti-personal land mines – the 3rd largest arsenal in the world.
15. Land mines cost somewhere in the region of $3 to produce, and a staggering $1,000 to clear per unit.
16. Land mines last long past the end of a conflict – with some from World War 2 still killing and maiming civilians.
17. Military mine clearance is not intended to be thorough – it is done under time pressure and dangerous conditions, with the intention of clearing a path for military vehicles to pass through minefields.
18. Humanitarian demining aims for 99.6% clearance of land or sea, and it very time intensive and costly.
19. Manual mine removal can be done using a metal detector, with individuals wearing protective gear – but this is still very high risk.
20. Dogs and rats are often used as a humanitarian demining tactic – they sniff out explosive chemicals, and their small mass means that they are less likely to set off the trigger.
22. Mechanical clearance is often used to detonate mines, using rollers, flailers and plows.
23. Mechanical demining plows excavate the earth and turn mines upside down, which reduces the impact of explosion.
24. Long arm armoured bulldozers are often used, to reduce the risk to the driver of the vehicle.
25. Some questionable practices – not used by the UN, are to allow cattle and other large animals to graze on mid fields. It is reported that Nazi and Soviet governments forced prisoners to run across mine riddled land also as a punishment.
26. The UN estimates that it will take 1,100 years to clear all the land mines that are currently hidden with the technology we have available at present.
27. Somalia has approximately 1 million active land mines due to regional conflicts that have been ongoing for more than 40 years. It has impacted agriculture, and transport on top of the loss of life and disabilities.
28. Mozambique is afflicted with around 3 million active land mines, which has exacerbated the crisis of its hungry citizens. Much farmable land is unusable because it is littered with land mines, and even schools did not escape. Approximately 20 people per month are injured of killed by the hidden explosives in Mozambique.
29. Bosnia Herzegovina is scattered with somewhere in the region of 3 million active land mines along confrontation lines from past battles with Yugoslavia. It is reported that 30 to 35 people are harmed by them every single month, the vast majority of whom are civilians.
30. More that 97% of Kuwait’s land is purported to be mined after the Gulf War and other conflicts that have wreaked havoc on this country.
31. 3 decades of war have left Cambodia with an enormous anti-personnel land mine problem. The UN estimates that there are between 8 and 10 million active mines situated across the country, which have been hidden from as far back as 1979. More than 40,000 Cambodians have suffered amputations as a result of detonating land mines, which works out to 40 victims every single week for 20 years.
32. There are reports of anti personnel land mines being used in Cambodia in alarming ways – including to settle land disputes by civilians, to hunt tigers and even by police to catch criminals on the run.
33. Over 1,096 communities in Afghanistan are affected by the 10 million land mines that are scattered across this war battered nation.
34. 10 to 12 people per day are injured or killed by the 10 million land mines which are spread across most of Afghanistan.
35. There are 1 or 2 mines per person that live in Angola, around 10-20 million are in fields, villages and roads throughout the nation. The country has estimated that 70,000 of its citizens are amputees as a result of the explosive devices.
36. The Iran-Iraq conflict has left something like 16 million anti personnel devices in Iran.
37. Egypt is though to have more land mines active than any other country – with desert minefields being dubbed ‘The Devil’s Garden’. There are around 23 million land mines, both anti-tank and anti-personnel, which are notoriously hard to find.
38. There are secondary impacts of land mines on the environment – including soil degradation, deforestation, pollution of water and changes in the local biostructure.
39. 80% of the World’s nations are a part of the Mine Ban Treaty.
40. However, many powerful nations have decided not to accept the Mine Ban Treaty – including China, Egypt, Finland, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
41. The United States is still the only NATO state not to have signed the treaty.
42. The Mine Ban Treaty requires member states to commit to the following:
43. The International Campaign to ban land mines has made it easy for us to get involved to help this cause to progress – to get more states to join and to put pressure on those that have joined to fulfil their obligations. The following text from their site shows just how much they have achieved so far!
ICBL-CMC is proud to have contributed to the dramatic reduction in the number of people killed or injured by landmines and cluster munitions from around 20,000 in 1999 to just over 3,000 today, thanks in large part to the advocacy, research and action of some 100 ICBL-CMC national campaigns around the world.
But, this is still some 3,000 people – children, women and men – too many.
Since 1992 our organization has been the leading voice pushing for the eradication world-wide of antipersonnel landmines and as of 2006, for the eradication of cluster munitions. In 1997 the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work.
Today, landmines and cluster munitions still pose a lethal threat to millions of people in 56 countries preventing access to land and the chance to build safer and more prosperous futures for themselves and their children. Half a million survivors, their families and communities, many living in the most vulnerable regions of their countries are still without the support they need to cope with the life-shattering injuries these weapons cause.
44. You can download an information leaflet from their site here. It is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish. It provides advice on engaging with the media, plus a campaign toolkit and templates of lobbying letters that you can use!
45. You can also donate quickly and securely through PayPal following the link here.
“You can help build a world free of landmines and cluster munitions!
By giving to ICBL-CMC you can take part in the global movement to end the devastation these banned weapons continue to wreak upon individuals and communities all over the world.”
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