International Mine Action Day: portraits of deminers whose day job is to save lives
Besides killing and causing horrific injuries, explosive weapons spread terror, make people fear for their lives, devastate vital infrastructure and prolong the effect of war even after the end of a conflict. On the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Handicap International highlights the incredible work of deminers all over the world.
A deminer takes part in a training exercise before operations begin. | © J.M. Vargas/Handicap International
Published last November, the Landmine Monitor reported a record increase in the number of casualties of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), up 75% from 2014. The vast majority of people killed and injured in these attacks were civilians. This depressing finding is directly linked to the intensive use in recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere of explosive weapons in populated areas.
“Bombing and shelling not only has a devastating impact during an attack, these weapons also leave behind large quantities of explosive remnants of war, since a significant proportion of weapons do not explode on impact. These explosive remnants continue to put civilian lives at risk long after fighting or a conflict is over. They pose exactly the same threat as anti-personnel mines,” explains Aleema Shivji Executive Director of Handicap International UK
Every day, inspiring staff from Handicap International are demining the countries most affected by explosive remnants of war.
Inspiring staff like Ali who has been working in Lebanon for 10 years. So far he helped destroy 700 mines, saving 700 lives. Or Shoresh in Iraq and Tong in Laos who respectively destroyed 190 and 115 mines in 7 years, saving hundreds of lives.
Marta, in Colombia, has never forgotten a lucky escape she had when she was a teenager. She now oversees mine clearance operations in Colombia for Handicap International. “When I was fourteen I stumbled on a mine as I was walking through my village. It was damp so it didn’t go off. I saw people maimed by mines when I was growing up. I saw children die for a war that wasn’t theirs. Like many people, violence had a big impact on us. And now I’m a mine clearance expert. I really love my work. I can’t tell you how great it feels when I finish clearing a mined area.” says Marta.
Ali, Shoresh, Tong and Marta are four of a number of Handicap International deminers whose day job is to save lives. You can see their and share their portraits on our Mine Action Day Facebook album.