War disabled: fresh commitment needed to ensure sustainable support
In 1997, 123 States signed the first-ever treaty banning the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of a weapon that was already in widespread use: anti-personnel landmines. Fifteen years later, their use and production has been curbed dramatically, while data on clearance, stockpile destruction and casualty rates show undeniable progress towards eliminating the problem. However, much still needs to be achieved, as Claude Tardif, Hhead of the ICRC’s physical rehabilitation programme, explains.
Today, we mark two events that are closely interlinked: 15 years of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. What does this mean for the ICRC?
For the past 150 years, the ICRC has been close to people who have been victims, direct or indirect, of armed conflicts and emergencies. We have witnessed the consequences of the violence and in many places around the world we have assisted – and still assist – thousands of people disabled as a result of conflict. Our strong involvement in the establishment of the Mine Ban Convention was the result of our experience in the field. Assistance was important, but there was a need to prevent people from suffering again and again.
Many people with disabilities have the potential to be active members of their communities, as long as the barriers they face are overcome. Events such the International Day of Persons with Disabilities are important as they raise awareness about this issue.
What is the ICRC's appraisal fifteen years after the signature of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention?
There have been many positive and impressive achievements. The use and the production of these weapons have decreased. We can also see notable progress in the fields of mine clearance and stockpile destruction. Recorded casualty rates have declined and more victims have access to services. Yet there is a need to improve many areas.
Many people - landmine survivors, their families and mine-affected communities - still face difficulties in accessing the services they need. So more work is needed to improve and strengthen that access. The slow rate of clearance remains a major issue for populations living in mine-affected areas: people cannot use their fields, roads, wells… This has a disastrous impact, not just in terms of physical and psychological suffering, but also for the economic and social costs.
How many people are still killed or injured by landmines today?
It is impossible to know the exact number but for the past three years the Landmine Monitor has reported approximately 4,000 new casualties per year from mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. The true number is almost certainly higher, due to a lack of reporting in a number of countries. What we do know is that between January and Se,c,c,vmgjmnnnptember 2012, the ICRC-assisted network of centres provided 6,220 prostheses to mine survivors, while almost 8,000 survivors had access to appropriate physiotherapy services.
Is the ICRC also assisting in other ways?
Yes. Besides ensuring the provision of physical rehabilitation, we are also promoting access to services such as vocational training and socio-economic initiatives, to help survivors and other people with disabilities to become as independent as possible. The two other pillars of our work in "mine action" target the development and promotion of legal norms as well as physically reducing the impact of weapon contamination. This means mine clearance where there is an urgent need or in places where people face problems of access. It also includes our support to national authorities to build up their capacity to perform humanitarian demining.
How does the ICRC foresee the future?
We strongly believe that the promises of the Mine Ban Convention can be fulfilled, but this will require continued hard work and commitment. The ICRC hopes that the remaining users and producers of anti-personnel landmines (a dwindling but still important group) will abandon these horrific weapons. Fifteen years on, there is also a need for renewed leadership and commitment by the States party to the Convention. Both mine-affected countries and those in a position to support them need to maintain the momentum, taking tangible steps at the political level and committing the necessary human and financial resources to achieving the goals of the Convention. For instance, a number of States need to improve their clearance efforts. Similarly, they must undertake concrete action to ensure the long-term sustainability of victim assistance efforts, so that survivors have access to the services they need for the rest of their lives.
ICRC victim assistance
ICRC projects are designed and implemented to strengthen the overall physical rehabilitation services of a given country. They aim to help both people directly affected by armed conflict (those injured by mines, bombs and other ordnance) who need physical rehabilitation services and those indirectly affected – people who become physically disabled because of the breakdown of normal health services. In 2013, the ICRC will continue to support 12 countries that are party to the Mine Ban Convention (Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen). In addition, the ICRC supports the provision of services for landmine survivors in five States not party to the Convention: China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Nepal.
ICRC Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD)
The Fund aims to support physical rehabilitation services in low-income countries, giving priority to former ICRC projects. Restoring and maintaining physical mobility remains the primary aim of SFD-assisted projects. The Fund focuses on strengthening institutions and ensuring sustainability of physical rehabilitation services through capacity building, working with reliable local partners and is an integral part of the ICRC strategy in physical rehabilitation. In 2013, the Fund will maintain support for six countries (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, Senegal, Somalia, and Tajikistan).