One million landmines still threathening Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo, 4th 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 – toghether 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 of 4th April 2007 – 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% 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, whreas the number of children victims decreased considerably as a result of continous mine risk education. The fact that the problem still exists, although the number of mined fields declines, is proved by data showing that the number of mine-related accident 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 impact 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% of funds allocated for the mine action come from foreign donations, and 30% 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, by 2014 all main priorities and by 2020 most of mine danger could be cleared.
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, supported and funded largely by the international community, in the following period, or in 2007 to be more precise, a more considerable support to socio-economic integration of mine survivors will be expected from the BiH authorities. This will be done by adopting regulations in the area of employment of disabled persons, efforts on modifying and harmonization of existing legislation in the field of education, social and health protection, and protection of disabled 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 disabled persons, 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 disabled persons 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.
New mine signs provided to BH Mine Action Centre
Sarajevo, 4. April 2007 – This year in Bosnia & Herzegovina, an additional 133 square kilometers of suspected mine areas will be marked with 10,400 mine signs thanks to funding support from the Government of Canada. UNICEF will provide the new contribution, including the mine signs and required office equipment to the BH Mine Action Centre (BHMAC). This support will allow BHMAC regional offices to continue their community risk assessment and planning, urgent marking and quality assurance activities.
“BH MAC expresses its gratitude to UNICEF and Canada for everything that has been done in the area of Mine Action so far, especially for Mine Risk Education and marking of suspicious territories. Having in mind that the mine threat will be present in BiH for a long time, a continuous Mine Risk Education and minefield marking is necessary, to avoid new victims of mines and unexploded ordnances. The solution to this complex problem is possible only through an effective and efficient involvement of local government at all levels, with the indispensable help from the International Community, and with a high degree of mine risk awareness among all inhabitants of mine-affected communities to avoid accidents which are unfortunately a part of our everyday life.” – said Mr. Dušran Gavran, BH MAC Director.
H.E. David Hutchings, the Ambassador of Canada and UNICEF Representative June Kunugi symbolically handed over the mine signs to Mr. Gavran, as part of the observance of Mine Action Day 2007.
The marking of mine-contaminated areas is an essential component of risk reduction at the community level, as highlighted by research and feedback from field visits. Urgent marking is a constant reminder of the lurking danger of landmines and the most efficient tool against complacency. An estimated one million landmines and explosive remnants of war are among the many threats and difficulties that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including children, face every day, and in their quest to lead a normal and productive life, they often either forget or ignore the threat posed by an area suspected of being mined if a sign is not there to remind them of the danger.