Children account for nearly 30 per cent of all victims of landmines worldwide, says Hanoch Barlevi of UNICEF Mozambique
MAPUTO, Mozambique, 4 April 2011 – Hanoch Barlevi is the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Emergency Response Specialist at UNICEF Mozambique, where he heads a small emergency response team. An Israeli national, he has worked in Angola, Eritrea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, and was working with the Mozambican National Demining Institute, as a UNDP official, for two years before joining UNICEF at the beginning of this year.
What is your experience working with landmines?
I first started working with demining for UNICEF in Angola in 1996 and continued there for five years. Since then I have been working on the same issue in Eritrea, Sri Lanka and Mozambique, most recently for UNDP here in Mozambique. I was also part of the UNICEF delegation present at the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa in 1997.
How do landmines affect children in particular?
In UNICEF, we say that simply being a child, with a child’s natural curiosity and desire to play, touch, seek and explore, is a risk in itself in areas that are contaminated by landmines and explosive remnants of war. Walking to school, herding livestock, fetching water or collecting firewood can all potentially be matters of life and death. Children, particularly boys, account for nearly 30 per cent of all victims of landmines worldwide, especially explosive remnants of war. Another factor is that while many landmines have been designed to cause injury to adults, they have a much more devastating impact on children.
How are children in Mozambique being affected by landmines?
Even though the war in Mozambique ended many years ago, landmines from that time is still a problem. Between 2008 and 2010, while the number of landmine accidents and victims in Mozambique increased overall, the proportion of children injured and killed went down, so we can hope that mine awareness activities targeting children, carried out by the Government of Mozambique through the National Demining Institute, as well as by non-governmental organizations, are having an effect.
How do landmines impact on emergency response operations?
There are two main ways in which landmines and other explosive remnants of war can impact on emergency situations: one is through the movement of people into new areas, as a consequence of the emergency, where landmines may be present, and another is when floodwater shifts landmines and moves them into new areas or brings concealed landmines to the surface. While the presence of mines generally has not hampered emergency responses in the past, it is something that one always has to take into consideration and guard against.
What is UNICEF’s approach to the landmine issue?
When it comes to landmines, UNICEF worldwide works on three separate priorities: reducing the risk of being affected by landmines through education and awareness programs; providing assistance and support to victims of landmines; and advocating to eliminate landmines and other weapons that are especially harmful to children, such as cluster bombs.
What are the prospects for a worldwide ban on landmines?
There is an international campaign to ban landmines, and this campaign even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. A mine ban treaty was signed by 120 states in Ottawa the same year and has since added new signatories that are committing to a ban on antipersonnel mines and similar weapons. Unfortunately, large countries like China, India, Russia and the United States have not yet signed the Treaty, but the Obama Administration has started a comprehensive review of the issue, opening up the possibility of the US joining the Treaty in the future.