15,000 killed or maimed annually by landmines
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Landmines pose grave dangers
ADDIS ABABA, 15 Sep 2004 (IRIN) - Fifteen thousand people are
killed or maimed by anti-personnel landmines annually in the world despite a
five-year old global treaty outlawing them, a keynote speaker at a meeting on
The Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Wolfgang Petritsch,
called for the destruction of the estimated 200 million landmine stockpiles.
"The greatest harm to the civilian population and children is from
landmines," Petritsch said on Wednesday.
Speaking in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, he said: "We must eliminate
this weapon. A lot has been achieved but much more needs to be done. The human
devastation of this weapon is immense, as is the extent to which it poses a
significant obstacle to social and economic development."
Petritsch was speaking at a three-day summit hosted by the African Union, where
an action plan for ridding the continent of landmines is being drawn up. The
summit aims to assist victims on the continent, speed up clearance, ensure the
destruction of stockpiles and apply pressure on governments to accept the ban on
Sub-Saharan Africa is the most heavily mined region in the world. Millions of
people are at risk and thousands of square kilometres affected, thwarting
So far 143 states have signed up to the Ottawa Convention that calls for the
banning of the use of anti-personnel landmines and their destruction, including
48 African states. Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco and Somalia are the only
countries in Africa that have not ratified the 1997 convention. Petritsch urged
them to ratify the convention and send a signal to the rest of the world that
they are serious about combating the deadly effects of anti-personnel landmines.
Since the treaty came into force, global casualties have halved from an
estimated 35,000 a year. While US $2.2 billion has been spent on tackling
landmines, Petritsch said more was needed. He said that although an estimated 37
million mines had been destroyed, there were still 200 million left on the
"We must keep up the pressure. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
There are now fewer casualties," he told the summit.
Some 18 countries around the world are believed to have the potential to
manufacture the weapons, with the largest producers being China, Russia and
Singapore, according to the Swiss-based Geneva International Centre for
Humanitarian De-mining. The Ottawa Convention states that within 10 years of
nations signing up, they must be mine-free. So far Costa Rica and Djibouti have
cleared their mines.
In Africa, Angola ranks as the most heavily mined country on the continent, with
tens of thousands of victims of landmine blasts. Some eight countries are
expected to have completed clearance by 2009, including Chad, Mozambique, Uganda
Gamiliel Munguambe, national director of landmines in Mozambique, said however
it could take his country 50 years to clear mines without proper international
The conference comes ahead of a key summit in Kenya in November -the Nairobi
Summit on a Mine-Free World - which aims to drive forward the Ottawa Convention
and ensure continued support.