Land Mines: The Legacy of War
By Kate Roff
Chaom knows the importance of clearing landmines after conflict. He was 7 months' old when he lost his leg in an explosion in Cambodia. After the war there his father was employed by The HALO Trust to help clear unexploded mines, and now Chaom grows cassava on cleared land, providing for a son of his own. His country is one of many living in the shadow of war.
Globally, 6,461 people died in 2016 because of mines left over after conflicts.
"The countries which are the most deeply affected are Cambodia, Angola, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan," said Louise Vaughan from The HALO Trust.
The HALO Trust has destroyed 1.5 million landmines since their inception, and their de-mining training offers employment for people who may not have any other source of income after violence in their region has ended.
“It's their very local, specialist knowledge, their memories, their technical expertise, and their dedication for ridding their country for their children, for their grandchildren - they have that,” Ms Vaughan said.
“No other person is going to be so invested in wanting a country to be free of land mines than the people who actually live there," she said.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty to ban mines, in which 80% of countries outlawed antipersonnel mines, but in some conflicts improvised mines are still being used.
"You've got new countries that are facing hugely insecure futures due to the proliferation of IEDs [Improvised Explosive Device] in contemporary conflicts - places like Syria, Yemen, and Iraq," Ms Vaughan said. “I think in the case of Syria, we're finding that as various areas become liberated, more IDP's will return, but they will be at risk from this huge IED legacy," she said.
The biggest problem organisations like The HALO Trust face is sourcing funding. States have agreed on a goal to be land-mine free by 2025, but financial support has dwindled over the last 20 years.
"Now, unless there's a huge international donor commitment to meeting that deadline, it will simply come and go," Ms Vaughan said.
Cover Photo: Rodney Evans/AusAID