Mine awareness day: Lend your leg today
In spite of the continued cold snap, you may notice a significant number of people rolling up their trousers and baring their legs today in order to ‘Lend a Leg’ in support of continued landmine problems around the world.
Worrying statistics suggest that approximately 20,000 people a year are killed by landmines, a figure bound to send waves through the Western world where mines seem a relic of World War II.
Despite achieving only limited aims, the explosive devices are still used rather extensively by different countries across the globe, resulting in extensive death or injury to the non-combatant population. Mines persist as a threat even after conflicts have ceased due to the huge cost of removal. This process of deactivation is at a premium cost of £200–660 per mine, despite the cheap production costs that can range under £7.
Since the 1960s as many as 110 million mines have been spread throughout the world into an estimated 70 countries. Largely, this problem is in conflict areas in developing parts of Africa and the Middle East, where mines are increasingly used to terrorise local and rural communities in the Middle East. To detonate the devices is to unleash desperate conditions on many people, reducing their means of transport, communication and even food and water links with other towns and cities.
Eighty per cent of casualties are civilian, with 50 per cent of those who have suffered a blast not surviving more than a couple of hours. Children are more vulnerable than adults due to increasingly smaller, and sometimes coloured mines that youths mistake for discarded toys.
There has been a drive to raise awareness of the difficulties of living with the aftermath of an explosion. This has culminated in the “Lend Your Leg” campaign that encourages people worldwide to roll up their trousers and sleeves as a gesture of unity with those who have lost their limbs as a consequence of landmines. It is hoped that by drawing attention to the plight of the victims, there will be better reintegration and social acceptance.
Juan Pablo Salazar, the founder of the Lend a Leg campaign, explained: “Lend Your Leg is a simple tool to help bring awareness around the landmine issue, and to recognize survivors as part of our society.”
“Through our work, empowering people with disabilities and other vulnerable communities, we create tools to change many social paradigms that still exist in our societies. So this issue became very important to us as human rights activists.”
In the vast majority of cases there is little support for these people. Developing and war-torn countries lack appropriate infrastructure to provide proper care for victims and where rehabilitation services exist, they reach less than five per cent of the total people affected.
Mounting support for the ban of landmines has led to the adoption of a global scheme to control and prevent the spreading of the explosives called the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) which is backed by the UN. Since the anti-personal mine ban started receiving signatures in 1997, more than 150 countries have ratified the bill, and this has seen huge volumes of anti-personnel mines destroyed in the past decade. Yet the problem is still extensive, Egypt is generally believed to be the most severely affected country, littered with approximately 23 million mines, but there are millions across Middle East nations such as Iraq and Iran, and in even in Cambodia, testifying to the extent of the problem on a global scale.
In his founding statement for the Lend the Leg campaign, Salazar explained: “As we now know, this is a matter of political will. So I’m convinced that if we, the people, mobilize together around this issue, we could give decision makers the power they need to represent us and take action to fully stop the use on landmines.”
Of course, the UN activism extends beyond one day of support. Four strategic objectives have been outlined in the prevention of landmine problems. The UN aims to reduce death and injury by at least 50 per cent; mitigate the risk to community livelihoods; integrate mine action needs into national development and reconstruction plans and assist the development of national institutions to manage the explosive remnants of war threat.
Countries with the largest number of active landmines:
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