|© UNICEF/2004/Dan Thomas|
|Lay Sokhum, aged 14, lost both legs to a landmine|
NEW YORK, 24 November 2004 – UNICEF will join hundreds of international organizations, global leaders and individuals to demand a ban on landmines at the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World from November 29 to December 3.
Thousands of children all over the world are being killed, injured and orphaned by landmines and unexploded ordnance discarded or fired by combatants.
In Cambodia, one of the worst affected countries, children account for about half of all landmine casualties.
Two years ago, 14-year-old Lay Sokhum stepped on a mine while working in his father’s field near Pailin in western Cambodia.
“After the blast I saw smoke,” he explained. “I was on the ground and didn’t know what had happened. It was only when I tried to move that I realized I was bleeding.”
The area around Pailin is one of the most dangerous places on earth. But two decades after the Khmer Rouge and their enemies tore Cambodia apart, experts from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre are hard at work trying to make the land safe for children and new settlers by searching for landmines and unexploded rockets and grenades.
Surgery saved Lay’s life, but not his legs. At first he was so shocked and depressed by his disability that he dropped out of school, but after months of rehabilitation and the fitting of two prosthetic legs he’s able to walk around unassisted and even cycle to school on a bike paid for by funds from UNICEF.
|© UNICEF/2004/Dan Thomas|
|A sign marks the edge of a minefield near Pailin, Cambodia|
As well as working to help the victims of mines and unexploded ordnance, UNICEF believes mine risk education is a key strategy to prevent more children getting killed or maimed.
Working with local partners, UNICEF funds and empowers teenagers to put on performances and role plays to warn younger children about the danger of mines and unexploded ordnance.
UNICEF also funds travelling cinemas which attract an audience by showing free movies and then engages children and their parents in a class on safety.
“Although many areas are demarcated, children are prone to move into those areas and become a considerable proportion of the victims of landmines,” said Rodney Hatfield, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia.
UNICEF’s Executive Director Carol Bellamy will attend the upcoming Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World with 14-year-old Nikola Kokorus from Bosnia who lost his hand in a landmine explosion when he was just three years old. He will make a personal plea on behalf of Lay Sokhum and all the world’s other landmine victims for all countries to join the Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits the use, stockpiling or production of landmines.
A total of 143 states have so far ratified the agreement, which became law in 1999.
24 November 2004 – Dan Thomas reports from Cambodia on attempts to protect children from landmines
Fact sheet: Children and landmines [PDF]