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Covid-19 disrupts mine action as new report shows more than 5,500 landmine victims per year

Press release | London, 12th November 2020, 9:00 GMT

Published on Thursday 12th November, the Landmine Monitor 2020 reports an exceptionally high number of casualties caused by landmines, particularly explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised mines, for the fifth year running. The Monitor recorded 5,554 mine casualties during 2019; 80% of whom were civilians, with children representing 43% of the civilian casualties. This high figure is mainly due to intense armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and other conflict areas. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is calling on states – that will gather online from 16 to 20th November for the annual Mine Ban Treaty conference - to enforce international humanitarian law and to put pressure on belligerent parties to end the use of these barbaric weapons. As the COVID-19 pandemic challenges humanitarian mine action in many countries, HI is also calling on states to maintain efforts to adapt mine action activities to public health restrictions in order to free the world of mines.

 

High number of casualties for five consecutive years

The Landmine Monitor reveals that the number of new casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war reached 5,554 in 2019 and remains high for the fifth year in a row (6,897 in 2018, 7,253 in 2017, 9,439 in 2016 and 6,971 in 2015). The 2019 total is still 60% higher than the lowest determined annual number of 3,457 casualties in 2013. There was an average of 10 casualties per day in 2013; in 2019, the rate rocketed to 15 casualties per day. The Monitor underlines that casualties go unrecorded in many states and areas, meaning the true casualty figure is likely significantly higher.

For the fourth successive year, in 2019, the highest number of annual casualties was caused by improvised mines. Out of a total of 5,554 mine casualties recorded in 2019, 2,994 people were killed or injured by improvised mines.

Though mainly used by non-state armed groups, improvised landmines fall within the scope of the Ottawa Treaty and its prohibition of the use of any indiscriminate weapons. Dialogue with some non-state armed groups to convince them to abandon such practices and to commit to the Treaty is possible. Mine clearance – which is an obligation of the Ottawa Treaty - is a way to deny these groups access to weapons and munitions as many improvised mines are made using disposed of explosives or remnants of them.

The vast majority of people killed by anti-personnel mines are civilians: 80% of casualties were civilians in 2019 (4,466), of whom 43% were children (1,562). Explosive remnants of war caused the most child casualties (756, or 49%).  In 2019, the majority of new casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war were recorded in Afghanistan (1,538), Syria (1,125), Myanmar (358), Mali (345), Ukraine (324), Yemen (248), Nigeria (238) and Iraq (161). Mine casualties were recorded in 50 states and five territories around the world.

Large numbers of casualties are still driven by relatively few countries with intensive armed conflicts, involving the large-scale use of improvised mines, like Afghanistan, Syria, Mali, etc. Mines kill or cause complex injuries, often with serious disabling sequelae, and serious psychological trauma. The disability caused by mines - often following the amputation of a lower limb - is accompanied by social stigmatisation. Add to this the challenge of finding work, and it becomes difficult for survivors to return to normal life. We must constantly remind all parties to conflicts that the use of these weapons is banned and that international law must be respected,” says Anne Héry, Humanity & Inclusion’s Advocacy Director.

New reported use of mines

The Landmine Monitor confirmed new uses of anti-personnel mines by government forces in Myanmar between October 2019 and October 2020. Non-State armed groups also used landmines, including improvised mines, in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Libya, Myanmar, and Pakistan. The Monitor also says there were as yet unconfirmed allegations of new mine use by non-state armed groups in 12 countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, etc.) These uses have caused high-level contamination that will endanger the lives of thousands of people over the long-term. A total of 60 states and territories have been contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war around the world.

Impact of COVID-19 on mine action

Measures against COVID-19 had a serious impact on mine action in 2020. Restrictions prevented survivors and other persons with disability from accessing services they needed (rehabilitation, social services, etc.) in several mine-affected countries. Clearance was temporally suspended as well as risk education sessions that were adapted to constraints and restrictions against the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted mine action in 2020. Mine clearance, risk education –which is often based on face to face sessions – and victim assistance were temporarily suspended in many countries and had to be adapted to COVID-19 restrictions. Funds initially dedicated to mine action were also reallocated to the pandemic. As millions of people in 60 states and territories are still living under the threat of mines, states must maintain their commitment in the fight against landmines in order to reach a world free of mines in 2025,” says Héry.


Notes

  • You can access a copy of the Landmine Monitor 2020.
  • Interviews with Humanity & Inclusion’s advocacy & mine action experts available upon request.
  • The Ottawa Treaty bans the acquisition, production, stockpiling, trade and use of anti-personnel mines. The treaty was opened for signing on 3rd December 1997 and entered into force on 1st March 1999. A total of 164 states are party to the treaty and one state (the Marshall Islands) has signed but not ratified the treaty.
  • The Landmine Monitor 2020 report measures the impact of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines for the calendar year 2019, with information included up to October 2020 when possible.

About Humanity & Inclusion  

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

For the past 30 years, HI has been campaigning against anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, with projects ranging from bomb clearance, risk education to teach civilians about the dangers of these weapons and victim assistance. This led to the signing of the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention (1997) and the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008). HI is one of six founding organisations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.

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Email: media.uk@hi.org
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