Next Tuesday, April 4th, is the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, as declared by the UN General Assembly in December 2005.
The theme chosen this year is “Mine action is humanitarian action.”
Significant progress has been made since this day was first established, with multiple organisations and governments showing an increased effort to deal with this problem quickly and efficiently.
In fact, today, 162 states are now party to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and in 2014 international support for mine action reached $416.8 million (US).
However, while this is a considerable achievement, there remains a significant amount of work to be done. Every day an estimated 10 people are killed or injured by landmines or explosive remnants of war.
Further, there remain 35 countries outside of the Ottawa Teaty and 60 states and areas which are still contaminated by landmines or explosive remnants of war. This means that in 60 areas around the world parents are frightened to send their children to school, people put themselves at risk daily simply by leaving their homes and many people struggle to rebuild their lives after surviving a landmine incident. Just yesterday, three Syrian boys were killed by a landmine they thought was a toy.
In light of this, the issue of landmine and explosive weapons contamination must be addressed through a humanitarian lens, because it is individual people who must face the very real danger of having their lives, or the life of a family member cut tragically short as a result of wars and conflict that they themselves had nothing to do with. With April 4th fast approaching, we have another opportunity to recommit ourselves to ending the suffering caused by landmines and to remind the international community that mine action is humanitarian action.
Claudia Pearson is an undergraduate student at the University of Leeds currently on exchange at the University of Ottawa.