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At a glance: United States of America

International Day for Mine Awareness draws global attention to landmines

© UNICEF/HQ07-0275/Markisz
Children look at an interactive map of mine education materials as part of the International Day for Mine Awareness & Assistance in Mine Action at the UN.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, USA, 4 April 2007 – A simulated mine field in the shadow of the UN building, and an exhibition of landmines and explosives of all shapes and sizes. These were just two of the ways in which the United Nations marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, a day aimed at focusing global attention on the danger of these legacies of war and to mark the progress towards their eradication.

“This day is a reminder that millions of people in nearly 80 countries still live in fear of landmines and explosive remnants of war,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “They take unacceptable toll on lives and limbs. They wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods. They block access to land, road and basic services.”

Often when wars or conflicts come to an end, landmines, abandoned ordnance and unexploded weapons like cluster bombs and grenades are often left behind. They all pose a huge threat to civilians, particularly children.

To increase mine awareness among the public, a team of de-mining experts from the U.S. Department of Defense gave UN visitors a lively lesson on mines.

“If it’s an anti-personnel blast mine, it is not designed to kill, but to maim,” said de-mining expert Bill Earney, pointing at many different kinds of small landmines.

© UNICEF/HQ07-0271/Markisz
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opens the photo exhibition Enduring Fear: Images of Landmines, Explosive Remnants of War and the People Affected by Them.

 One third of victims are children

UN Secretary-General Ban opened a photo exhibition, Enduring Fear, capturing the lethal impact of landmines and other war remnants on children and families across the world.

The Mine Ban Treaty, enacted in 1999, has now been ratified by more than three-quarters of the world’s nations. It prohibits the production, stockpiling and use of antipersonnel landmines.

Though the treaty has reduced the overall casualties, landmines still kill or maim some 15,000 to 20,000 people a year.

“Of those victims, between 5,000 and 6,000 are children,” said said UNICEF Chief of Landmines and Small Arms, Paula Claycomb. “Children are far more likely to die of their injuries than adults, because their bodies are so much smaller and the injuries to their bodies are so much greater.”

© UNICEF/HQ07-0273/Markisz
Bill Earney, de-mining expert from the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian De-mining Training Center, speaks about the dangers of unexploded ordnance and landmines to a group of visitors.

‘Be careful, wherever you live’

Children are also curious, which may lead them to touch or play with landmines. Teaching children how to live safely amidst the threat of landmines, and how to reduce the risk of being killed or severely disabled by a mine, is one of UNICEF’s key priorities.

After participating in an awareness workshop given by UNICEF Mine Action Officer for Colombia Sharon Ball at today’s event, twin brothers Josef and Johan Wichmann, 9, understand how careful children in the affected countries need to be to protect themselves from the threat.

“I have learned that you can hide mines in the ground, under a bridge, in the water, or even in the house,” said Johan. “Back in the old times, when they had more wars, they planted bombs so that enemies don’t get their territory,” added Josef.

“Some of the bombs exploded, but some may not have. So be careful, wherever you live.”




4 April 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the observance of International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
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