Landmines and explosive remnants of war threaten children and communities across Myanmar

04 April 2018
UNICEF Myanmar/2017/Patrick Brown


On the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict and other stakeholders to scale up efforts to protect children and their families from the scourge of landmines. A high-level event in the capital concluded that progress is possible if all parties work to enable mine risk education in hard-to-reach areas; invest more in assistance for survivors; and initiate landmine clearance wherever possible. 

Nay Pyi Taw, 4 April 2018- Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) from decades of armed conflicts across Myanmar continue to threaten the lives of children and their families every day in nine out the 14 States known to be contaminated. 

During an event in Nay Pyi Taw today, organized to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, UNICEF, and members of the Mine Risk Working Group (MRWG) revealed that in the past two years the number of accidents caused by landmines and ERWs had continued to rise. 

In 2016 and 2017 combined, 337 casualties were reported, with conflict-stricken States such as Kachin and Shan topping the list. Out of every four casualties at least one child was injured, and one out of four accidents resulted in death. “Even though we know that many incidents still go unreported, every second day an accident caused by a landmine happens in Myanmar. Sadly, children and women bear the brunt,” said June Kunugi, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar, noting that 43% of those harmed in 2017 alone were women and children. 

While the MRWG and other stakeholders have been scaling up assistance to victims since 2016, with the opening of new support and rehabilitation centers, alongside other psycho-social help in highly landmine-contaminated areas, significant gaps still remain. 

During the event, UNICEF called on the Government to improve data and information management systems so that more effective victim support services can be developed. Improving these systems will also be key for enabling survivors to have ongoing access to much-needed health and social services.

Participants in the event reiterated the importance of Mine Risk Education to ensure that the people living with the daily risk posed by these sinister devices are equipped with the knowledge they need to protect themselves. 

While efforts made so far to reach over 321,000 children and their families with awareness sessions in schools, communities, and camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) were praised, participants called for greater access to areas still out of reach to members of the MRWG who run these critical awareness sessions supported by the European Union.    

“Mine awareness has the potential to significantly prevent accidents and reduce the lifelong impact of these devastating devices. That’s why we need to scale up our efforts and do everything that we can to reach every single landmine-littered community to deliver MRE,” said Kunugi. 

She also introduced the newly launched MRE mobile app, designed to expand the reach of lifesaving information through a user friendly and innovative tool. 

The lack of progress made in the area of humanitarian demining and land clearance, despite commitments made on this with the signing of the 2015 ceasefire, was emphasized.    

“The lives of whole communities are interrupted by uncleared mine fields. Accessing homes, schools, health and other social services can become a challenge and when farmlands become mine fields, the well-being and livelihoods of families are also damaged,” said Kunugi urging all parties to the conflict to enable mine clearance activities to begin in those States where the conflicts have ceased. 

“Waiting for all aspects of the peace process to be resolved will only allow for more accidents, increase the costs for victims’ assistance and delay sustainable development,” she said.

The event closed with a call to the Government of Myanmar to become a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, already signed by 164 States.

About the Myanmar Mine Risks Working Group (MRWG)

The MRWG was established in 2012 as an inter-ministerial and inter-agency coordination platform under the co-leadership of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and UNICEF to ensure mine action interventions (MRE, Victim Assistance, Information Management, Land release activities) are aligned with international standards and lessons learned in Myanmar. The MRWG comprised 10 ministries, the Army and 41 national and international organizations, and 4 State-level coordination platforms are established in Kachin, Shan, Kayah and Kayin.

UNICEF and Mine Action

UNICEF as a strong advocate against landmines and other indiscriminate weapons promotes the signing, ratification and implementation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty (APMBT), the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and other related treaties. UNICEF has been working on mine action for the past 15 years supporting activities in some 35 countries, including Myanmar, providing technical and financial support to the development and implementation of mine action projects primarily Mine Risk Education.  UNICEF also advocates for and with mine/ERW survivors and other people with disabilities – especially children - to ensure their voices are heard, rights respected, their basic needs met, and that they are able to fully participate in their societies

UNICEF in Myanmar  

UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. 

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