Living in shadow of death shadow of death

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 1995, 12:00am

The widespread placement of landmines in over 60 countries has become one of the greatest challenges to development SIXTY-FIVE to 110 million landmines contaminate over 60 countries around the world, according to the State Department in the United States.

The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that, each month, at least 800 people are killed and 450 are injured by these lethal weapons.

Landmines do not discriminate. All people of whatever age or gender are affected. In stark terms, that is the global impact of landmines, technological developments have outpaced international conventions governing their use, manufacture and export.

The widespread placement of landmines has become one of the greatest challenges to development. Cambodia, for instance, with an estimated four million landmines, has 30,000 amputees, the world's largest.

Mines not only threaten villagers' lives, but also undermine them economically.

'We can ask our children not to play in those areas, but our livestocks often go astray. Every time we hear an explosion, we worry about our only ox,' said one Cambodian farmer. The loss of an ox could cost half a year's income from farming.

While it is cheap to produce landmines, it is very expensive to clear them. There are between four and seven million landmines in Cambodia.

At US$300 (about $2,310) to US$1,000 per mine, it would cost at least US$1.2 billion to remove all Cambodia's landmines.

In Mozambique, there are between one and two million landmines. It would cost at least US$300 million to clear them.

Landmines are covered by the 1980 International Weapons Convention and its Landmines Protocol.

However, this convention does not ban landmines, rather it seeks to limit their use. Some international campaigns have been launched to press for a review results in a tightening on the manufacture, use and trade in landmines.

Landmines also represent one of the most serious issues faced by the developing world today.

Each year, they kill and maim thousands of people, and render hundreds of thousands of hectares of good land unusable.

In Vietnam, the number of mine injuries indicates that the problem is still a very serious one, even two decades after the war has ended.

In addition to killing and maiming the innocent, landmines are also responsible for the destruction of many important communications links such as roads and bridges.

De-mining - removing the millions of landmines planted overwhelmingly in developing countries - is essential for rural development, economic prosperity and political stability.

Oxfam's strategies to landmines Rehabilitating the victims: in Cambodia, we are offering disabled people training and access to loans so that they can start their small business and generate income for their families.

Rebuilding shattered infrastructures: in Mozambique, we are helping to rebuild road and bridges between the commercial and agricultural centres.

Campaigning: Oxfam Hong Kong is a member of the International Landmines Campaign Group, and is working to advocate the banning of landmines and to educate the public on the mine issue.

Currently, we are urging countries involved in the Vietnam War and those who produced and sold landmines used in the war to help clear the mines, either through technology transfer or other assistance.

Landmine distribution Afghanistan - nine to 10 million Angola - nine million Iraq - five to 10 million Kuwait - five million Cambodia - four to seven million Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia - two million Somalia - one million Mozambique - one to two million