Antipersonnel landmines claim victims in every corner of the globe each day. Incapable of distinguishing between the footfall of a soldier and that of a child, they remain a threat long after the end of a conflict.
Antipersonnel landmines are explosive devices designed to injure or kill people. They lie dormant for years and even decades under, on or near the ground until a person or animal triggers their detonating mechanism. Antipersonnel mines cannot be aimed: they indiscriminately kill or injure civilians, soldiers, peacekeepers and aid workers alike.
Made of plastic, metal or other materials, they contain explosives and some contain pieces of shrapnel. They can be activated by direct pressure from above, by pressure put on a wire or filament attached to a pull switch, by a radio signal or other remote firing method, or even simply by the proximity of a person within a predetermined distance.
When triggered, a landmine unleashes unspeakable destruction. The blast causes injuries like blindness, burns, destroyed limbs and shrapnel wounds. Sometimes the victim dies from the blast, due to loss of blood or because they don't get to medical care in time. Those who survive and receive medical treatment often require amputations, long hospital stays and extensive rehabilitation.
Stepping on a blast antipersonnel mine will invariably cause foot and leg injuries, and secondary infections usually resulting in amputation. Fragmentation mines project hundreds of metal fragments, showering the victim with deep wounds. Bounding fragmentation mines are more powerful versions: they spring up about 1 meter and then explode, firing metal fragments to a large radius.
The Ottawa Convention banning landmines defines an antipersonnel mine as: "a mine designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons." (Article 2.1)
Landmines are everywhere. According to Landmine Monitor, over 54 countries and territories in all regions of the world are affected by landmines and/or explosive remnants of war. Nobody knows how many mines are in the ground. But the actual number is less important than their impact: it can take only two or three mines or the mere suspicion of their presence to render a patch of land unusable.
The Ottawa Convention banning landmines and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines - of which Mines Action Canada is a part of – has made huge strides in solving this problem over the past 20 years – 80% of the world’s countries have joined the Convention; tens of thousands of stockpiled mines have been destroyed. However, there is still much left to do. In 2019, the Landmine Monitor recorded 5,554 mine/ERW casualties, of which at least 2,170 people were killed. There is also an estimated 500,000 survivors living in the world today expecting the medical, psycho-social support and economic assistance they have been promised under the Convention.
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