International Mine Action Day: One million landmines still threathening Bosnia & Herzegovina
One million landmines still threathening Bosnia & Herzegovina: Additional funds needed for the final solution of the mine threat problem
SARAJEVO, 4 April 2007 – The BiH Mine Action Centre (BHMAC), the United Nations agencies – the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) – together with their partners on the state and local level, including state institutions and non-governmental organisations, are this year's leaders in marking the International Mine Action Day in BiH. Marking 4 April – the day declared by the United Nations Assembly as the international day dedicated to problems landmines pose all over the world – is an opportunity for local authorities and international organisations to analyze past achievements in the area of mine action, and to reiterate their commitment and willingness to solve the issue of presence of landmines and the danger they represent in the country as soon as possible.
The data shows that the presence of landmines in BiH decreased considerably in the period from 1996 to 2007, more precisely going down from the original 4,000 km2 of suspected mined surface in 1996 to 1,889 km2 in 2006. These figures represent around 3.6 per cent of the total BiH territory that is considered suspicious grounds with around one million mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs).
During the mentioned period (1996-2006) there were over 1,500 mine victims; every fourth victim was a child. In the past couple of years, most victims were adults, whereas the number of children victims decreased considerably as a result of continous mine risk education. The fact that the problem still exists despite the declining number of mined fields is confirmed by data showing that the number of mine-related accidents did not decrease in 2006; it actually increased drastically. The number of victims, 19 in total in 2005, increased to 35 in 2006. They were all adults who were aware of danger and who entered the dangerous areas and risked their lives while trying to provide for the lives of their families (wood cutting, iron collecting, fruit picking). The unauthorised and irresponsible removal of landmine warning signs is, unfortunatelly, still occurring.
According to the Mine Action Strategy for BiH (2005-2009), it is estimated that there is a possibility to reduce the impact of landmines in the country to an acceptable level by 2009 by focusing on reducing the impact in high contaminated communities through integrated mine action, including demining, marking and mine risk education. Priority areas for clearance include settlements, infrastructure and part of agricultural lands, while other areas would remain permanently marked. Completion of this plan is still subject to available funds that grow smaller by the year. At this moment, 70 per cent of funds allocated for the mine action come from foreign donations, and 30 per cent are provided on the level of individual municipalities and local companies. In BiH there are currently 35 accredited organisations with over 3,000 deminers, 1,100 detectors, 90 dogs and 30 demining machines.
To create better strategic and planning conditions for mine action, a review of the general mine impact assessment is planned for 2007. The review should result with an updated image of the scope of the impact of the mine contamination that will enable a more efficient routing of resources and, at the same time, support determination and interest of the local communities and donors.
A review of the existing Mine Action Strategy was also planned in 2014 with the aim to allow for all levels of government to recognize their participation in the process. In this way, a support will be given to long-term sustainability of the existing mine action structure and possibilities will be open for stronger participation of the local communities and donors in the process. The priority of all activities will be a clearer directing of existing local and foreign funds to the clearly defined goals. If the capacities and funds allow, all main priorities could be cleared by 2014 and most of mine danger could be eliminated by 2020.
Further development of the local capacities for mine action and raising of necessary funds represents only one from the wide range of aspects of mine action. Besides this aspect, which is currently supported and funded largely by the international community, a more considerable support to socio-economic integration of mine survivors will be expected from the BiH authorities in the following period, or in 2007 to be more precise. This will be done by adopting regulations that govern the employment of persons with dissabilities, efforts on modifying and harmonizing the existing legislation in the field of education, social and health protection, and protection of war veterans and invalids. In that sense, a particular challenge for the state authorities will be ratification, signing and implementation of the recently adopted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Dissabilities, an overall document that covers all areas of life and reflects in an appropriate way connection and interdependence of all rights: civil, political, social, economic and cultural ones. This agreement recognizes the obligation for treating the persons with dissabilities as full members of the society that contribute to its development on the basis of equality.
The aim of the activities that will be undertaken on 4th April 2007 will be to draw the attention of BiH citizens to the fact that the landmines still represent a considerable danger to the human security, as well as to show to donors and interested partners the need for additional efforts in providing necessary funds for the final mine clearance of BiH. The BiH Mine Action Centre, the United Nations in u Bosnia and Herzegovina, including UNDP and UNICEF, the Landmine Survivors Network (LSN), the Red Cross of FBiH and RS, together with other partners in marking of this international day, would like to reiterate their commitment to solving the issue of landmines in BiH, and to call upon all local and international actors, commercial and non-commercial partners in the country and abroad, as well as all BiH citizens to make a joint effort in freeing the country of this danger and opening it to the development of tourism and other industries of a crucial importance to the prosperity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And for people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, living in affected communities or visiting potentially mined areas, remember that springtime is when most mine accidents happen. Be carefull! Do not enter any place which is not certain to be safe!
For further information:
Nela Kačmarčik, Public Relations, UNICEF
Svjetlana Trifković, BHMAC