International Day for Mine Awareness
April 4 was International Day for Mine Awareness. I'm speaking of landmines. We in the western world don't think much about landmines or even hear about their distressing and far-reaching effects. I decided to write this article to educate the world on the significance of landmines. Hopefully, readers will come away with an understanding of the massive impacts of landmines on people and communities, and join the effort to keep the landmine conversation relevant so that affected populations around the world can live their lives without the fear of losing their limbs, or their loved ones, to this devastating killer.
For much of my life, I wasn't even aware of the existence of landmines, much less understand its dreadful consequences. Then in 2001, I just happened to connect with a US based Ugandan organization called People with Disabilities, which was looking for volunteer writers. I decided to join them.
My involvement with People with Disabilities exposed to me the challenging, day-to-day existence in mine-infested Uganda. I researched, read, and wrote about disability following wars, the gruesome consequences of disability, the everyday struggles of disabled people—especially that of women and children, and the astounding optimism with which Ugandans live life in the face of their disabilities. My articles were among several that were published in the organization’s bimonthly newsletter, which served to elevate awareness of people living with disabilities and provide services that would help improve their status.
Landmines are dangerous because even after the conflict in which they were deployed, they continue to kill and injure civilians and render land impassable and unusable for decades. Made of plastic, metal or other materials, landmines contain explosives. Some contain pieces of shrapnel. Activating a landmine is quite straightforward: they can be activated by direct pressure from above, by a tripwire, or even simply by the proximity of a person within a predetermined distance. Some landmines are designed to maim, some to kill. When triggered, a mine can unleash unspeakable destruction, including blindness, severe burns, loss of limbs, and unspeakable physical and psychological wounds. Many victims die due to loss of blood or improper/untimely medical care. Those who survive and receive medical treatment often need amputations, long hospital stays, and extensive rehabilitation. Landmine blasts can also impact victims' families, especially when it takes away their only source of income.
Landmines are not unique to Uganda. There are found everywhere from Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Kuwait, Central America, and Mozambique.
Nations across the globe have instituted many programs over the years (a) to control the deployment of landmines and (b) to achieve the safe removal of landmines. In 1993 the United Nations passed a General Resolution moratorium on the sale and export of antipersonnel land mines. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has sought to prohibit their use, culminating in the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known informally as the Ottawa Treaty. The UN estimates that with current technology, it will take nearly 1,100 years to clear all the mines in the world!
Friends, no more landmines! Would you consider joining me in the campaign to ban landmines and restore people's right to live a decent life, like you and me?
For more information, please visit www.lendyourleg.org, where you can "lend your leg." I lent mine. My leg no. is 2711.