Voices from the ground - Landmine and explosive remnants of war survivors speak out on victim assistance

Report
from Handicap International - Humanity & Inclusion
Published on 30 Sep 2009 View Original
Introduction

Korab Mula (27) from Albania lost his two arms and injured both legs when he stepped on a mine and then fell on another one in June 2000. With international assistance, he was fitted with conventional prosthetic arms, but they give him problems and he cannot use them which has caused him to feel dejected and depressed. Only with more advanced electronic prostheses, which are not available in Albania, does Korab stand a realistic chance to train up for a job, and even get married. "I want to live with hope," Korab says, "I believe that I have a chance for a normal life, I wish to fulfill my dreams and obligations like all my village friends."

The Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) is the first international disarmament accord requiring the international community to help Korab Mula and the hundreds of thousands of survivors like him - a concept known as 'victim assistance' (VA). Hailed as "a historic victory for the weak and vulnerable of our world," the MBT represented a vital promise to those who have suffered at the hands of these indiscriminate weapons.

Despite this solemn commitment, survivors are still too often left to do just that - survive - on the margins of society, when they should be helped to rebuild their lives and thrive in the heart of their communities. This is because they are often among the poorest in some of the world's poorest countries and live in places that lack even the most basic services. Their governments often cannot afford to help them, and sometimes do not care to, and donors are blind to their suffering or have other priorities. But their governments and the international community have both a legal and moral obligation to treat and reintegrate survivors into society.

In 2004, at a special Survivor Summit, survivors recognized that improvements in VA in certain countries had occurred, but they also expressed their concern that VA was not a priority and that countries needed to improve their commitments. The summit's declaration emphasized the responsibilities of affected states as well as non-affected states to "set standards, dedicate more long-term resources to reach those standards, and improve the quality and sustainability of victim assistance."

For the first time, this report assesses the situation of survivors in the 26 countries which reported responsibility for significant numbers of survivors, commending successes but, more importantly, highlighting the gaps that need to be filled.