Nepal marks the 5th annual International Day of Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
Kathmandu, 4th April 2010: Nepal has now cleared half the minefields laid during its ten-year civil conflict, helping the country secure a lasting peace.
To commemorate the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction is highlighting the work done by the Government, the United Nations and civil society actors in eliminating the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Nepal.
“Mine action constitutes one of the priority areas in our peace building process. The Comprehensive Peace Accord, signed between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) spells out clear commitment to clearance of mines and other dangerous explosive items and commensurate assistance to the victims.” said the Honorable Minister Rakam Chemjong, Minister of Peace and Reconstruction.
“We are continuously engaged in implementing those commitments.”
During the conflict, 53 minefields were planted by the Nepal Army and more than 300 IED fields were laid by the Nepal Army, Police, and Armed Police Force combined.
Unknown numbers of IEDs were also produced by the Maoist army and continue to pose a threat across the country.
Since the end of the conflict, huge progress has been made in the areas of clearance, risk education, victim assistance and advocacy.
The Nepal Army is continuing their clearance operations with more deminers on the ground than ever before. The Nepal Army demining platoons, with support from the UN Mine Action Team (UNMAT) have now cleared 26 out of the 53 minefields with plans to complete clearance of the remaining half by the end of 2011.
In December 2009, UNMAT carried out the final demolition of explosive items held at Maoist Cantonment Site (MCS) 6 in coordination with the Maoist Army and UNMIN counterparts.
With this final demolition all items in the recorded stockpiles of improvised explosive devices and other explosive items held at the seven MCS have been destroyed. A total of 52,617 improvised explosive devices and other dangerous items have been destroyed by UNMAT since the beginning of these demolitions in 2007.
However, despite the progress made in minefield and IED stockpile clearance, Nepalis are still being killed by explosive remnants of war.
It’s impossible to clear all these devices systematically, as they liter the countryside in unknown locations.
In 2009, there were 70 casualties from victim-activated explosions - children made up 54 percent of those casualties. This gives Nepal one of the highest child casualty rates in the world. Women make up another 31 percent of the casualties and incidents have been reported in all five regions of Nepal.
The ongoing casualties highlight the need to reach more of the population with risk education messages.
The Ministry of Education has so far provided Mine Risk Education to more than half million school children from one thousand (1000) schools in affected areas. Additionally, a network of 430 Emergency Mine Risk Education focal points stand ready to provide emergency risk education in 68 districts.
“This International Day for Mine Awareness provides an important opportunity to sustain public awareness about the problem of landmines and explosive remnants of war and the efforts to eliminate them.” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative for Nepal.
“The United Nations looks forward to sustaining its support to the mine action work carried out by the government and civil society in Nepal. ”
Nepal is currently not a signatory to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Treaty. The government recently sent a high-level delegation led by the Honorable Minister Rakam Chemjong to the Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, held in Cartagena, Columbia in December 2009. Following this participation, the Steering Committee for Mine Action has designated a Task Force to review the Treaty, analyze its impacts for Nepal and make recommendations on how to proceed. The recommendations of this task force are due within a month.
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For more information please contact:
UNMAT Programme Officer: Mary Sack 985 111 0092, email firstname.lastname@example.org
UNICEF Chief of Communication: John Brittain at 5523200 (Ext. 1182), email email@example.com