Hidden killers

In more than 60 countries around the world, over 115 million anti-personnel landmines threaten lives and limbs. Approximately 2.5 million new mines are laid each year. 

Egypt has the largest number of mines, an estimated 23 million—a legacy of World War II and subsequent Arab-Israeli wars. Iran has 16 million mines, the second highest number, followed by Angola with 15 million. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the most heavily mined country, with 152 mines per square mile. Together, Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia have suffered 85% of the world's landmine casualties. 

Mine clearance is dangerous and costly: An anti-personnel landmine costs as little as $3 to manufacture, but as much as $300 to $1,000 to remove. The pace of de-mining lags far behind that of new mines still being placed. Only about 15.6 million mines have been cleared (most of these in Egypt), just 13% of the number in place. The cost of removing all the active mines worldwide is estimated at $33 billion. 

A landmine kills or maims a person every 20 minutes—more than 25,000 people a year. Of these victims, 5,000 to 6,000 are children. Angola has about 70,000 amputees, including 8,000 children—one amputee for every 154 persons. Most casualties are civilians killed or injured after hostilities have ended.

Hope for curbing this deadly plague centres around 'the Ottawa process'. This initiative was launched with a global NGO coalition calling for action at a conference last October, when Canada invited every country to return to Ottawa in December 1997 to sign a treaty forbidding the production, use, stockpiling or export of anti-personnel landmines. About 60 countries support this total ban, while others have indicated partial support.

Existing and cleared landmines (estimated)
Mines remaining Mines cleared
Egypt 23,000,000 11,000,000
Iran 16,000,000 200,000
Angola 15,000,000 80,000
Afghanistan 10,000,000 363,000
Cambodia 10,000,000 62,000
China 10,000,000 280,000
Iraq 10,000,000 21,000
Bosnia/Herzegovina 6,000,000 -
Viet Nam 3,500,000 59,000
Croatia 3,000,000 250,000
Mozambique 3,000,000 17,000
Other countries 6,214,000 3,228,000
Total 115,714,000 15,560,000
Source: UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs, January 1997.
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