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Asian children and societies still being crippled by landmines

BANGKOK, 30 August 2004 – As landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) continue indiscriminately to maim and kill children across the region, UNICEF called today for governments to redouble their efforts to prevent conflict-related injuries, which represent the fourth leading cause of all fatal injuries worldwide.

UNICEF will be raising these concerns at a three-day Regional Workshop on Mine Clearance and Victim Assistance in Southeast Asia, which opens today at the Siam City Hotel in Bangkok.

This region contains some of the most heavily mine-affected countries in the world. Landmines and UXO are a danger to children in nearly half of all villages in Cambodia and nearly one-quarter of all villages in Lao PDR. Up to 800,000 tonnes of UXO and 3.5 million landmines still cover Viet Nam, where over 100,000 people have been killed or injured since 1975.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to landmines and UXO,” said senior UNICEF official, Patrick Hennessy. “They like to explore, they like to play with objects they find and they cannot read signs warning them of danger. Children also frequently undertake household tasks that involve going near or through mine-affected areas. In Viet Nam, they account for half of all mine-related injuries and one-third of all deaths.”

The effect of landmines on children is particularly vicious. Some 85 per cent of children who step on landmines die before they reach hospital. Those that survive are often denied their basic rights. They are excluded from school and left with little chance to marry, find work or contribute to their families and societies.

Rehabilitation clinics are often too far away or too expensive to access, despite the fact that children need more regular care than adults. As they grow, new prostheses need to be fitted regularly, and a child survivor may have to undergo several amputations, since the bone of an amputation site grows more quickly than the surrounding tissue.

Children are also affected by the loss of primary caregivers and household breadwinners. When mothers are maimed or killed, children are less likely to receive adequate nutrition, to be immunized or to be protected from exploitation.  When fathers fall victim to landmines, children are often forced out of school to save diminished household resources or into work to supplement family income.

Landmines and UXO also cripple societies and economies. They prevent the reconstruction of homes, roads, schools and health and other essential facilities. They deny villagers access to fertile soil and sources of water.

The Regional Workshop is being hosted by the Thai Government as part of preparations for the First World Summit on Landmines in Nairobi. Representatives from 20 countries are attending, (Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Norway, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the US and Viet Nam).

Participants include ASEAN countries, donor nations and countries from around the world with experience of clearing landmines and/or assisting landmine victims. The meeting will focus on the exchange of experience and resources in order to scale up mine clearance and victim assistance programmes across the region. The meeting will also be attended by survivors of landmines from East Asia and the Pacific.

The First World Summit on a Mine Free World, which is scheduled to be held in Nairobi from 29 November to 3 December, will focus on clearing/marking mined areas, educating people at risk, destroying stockpiles, providing assistance to landmine victims and universalizing ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty, which has already been ratified by 141 states.

The Treaty prohibits signatories from using, stockpiling, producing or transferring landmines. It also mandates signatories to mark and clear mined areas within ten years of ratification and to destroy existing stockpiles within four years. Those states in a position to do so are required to provide assistance to other countries in meeting their obligations under the treaty and providing support to landmine victims.

In this region, 17 countries have yet to ratify the Treaty (Brunei Darussalam, China, Cook Islands, DPR Korea, Federated States of Micronesia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Marshal Islands, Mongolia, Myanmar, Palau, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam).

The region also contains five of the world’s fourteen producers of landmines (China, Myanmar, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Viet Nam) and some of the world’s largest stockpiles (in China and Republic of Korea). Landmines are still being laid in Myanmar and the Philippines.

UNICEF is committed to achieving a mine-free world and the protection of women and children in times of war. The major priorities for children and landmines are:

  • encouraging countries to sign up to the Mine Ban Treaty;
  • promoting awareness among communities of the dangers of landmines; and
  • ensuring access to support for victims of landmines, particularly women and children.

***

For more information, please contact:

Madeline Eisner, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific:
662 356 9406; Mobile: 661 701 4626

Robert Few, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific:
662 356 9499 ext. 9518; Mobile: 661 746 3048


 

 

 

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