Call for end to mine nightmare

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 1996, 12:00am

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

There are at least 40 million unexploded mines in developing countries.

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

There are between four million and seven million landmines in Cambodia. At US$300 to US$1,000 (about HK$2,300 to $7,730) per mine, it would cost at least US$1.2 billion to remove all of Cambodia's landmines.

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

While there are no official figures for Vietnam, the number of mine injuries being recorded indicates the problem is still a very serious one.

In Cambodia, one out of every 236 people has lost at least one limb and landmine injuries result in 300 to 700 amputations a month.

These people represent a loss of at least HK$432,000 each month in potential income.

Oxfam is working to help rehabilitate amputees in Cambodia.

We are offering disabled people training and access to loans so that they can start their own small businesses and generate income for their families.

We are also working to provide counselling to those traumatised by war or landmine injuries in an attempt to reintegrate them into the community.

Landmines are widespread in the rural areas of Vietnam. As a result, there is much good land which is simply too dangerous to farm.

In the meantime, farmers are struggling to survive on what they can grow on the land that is safe.

A drought or a flood can push them over the edge.

In Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province, in Vietnam, at least 3,500 hectares of farmland remain uncultivated due to the presence of mines and ordinance.

One crop from this land could generate about HK$3 million and sustain 2,100 families for a year.

Oxfam will be helping Vietnamese farmers with projects which work to increase the yields from the land they can farm.

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, without which economic activity is virtually impossible.

In Niassa Province in Mozambique, we are helping to rebuild a 250 km road between the commercial and agricultural centres of Cuamba and Marrupa; a road between Maua and Majune, involving six bridges; and a bridge over the Niroenge River, the sole link between Nipepe and Marrupa.

Landmines represent a serious obstacle to development.

It is difficult to calculate the economic losses they cause: the hard currency involved in clearing mines; the loss of potential income from those killed or injured; the loss of good farmland; the destruction of crucial infrastructure and the heavy burden on the medical services.

While it is important to work to help those affected by mines, it is equally essential to campaign internationally on the mines issue.

Oxfam is a member of the International Landmines Campaign Group, and is working to advocate the banning of landmines and to educate the public on landmines.

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

What Your Donation Can Do: Help Cambodian landmine victims rebuild their lives; Help reconstruct roads and bridges so economic activities can be restarted in Mozambique; Support agricultural improvement projects in Vietnam; and Support Oxfam's research and advocacy work on the landmines issue.

You can help the people of the developing world build a future. Please make a donation today. Oxfam Hong Kong is an independent development and relief agency based in Hong Kong which works with the poor regardless of race, sex, religion or politics in their struggle against poverty, distress and suffering.