Ethiopia + 1 more

Eritrea/Ethiopia: Remembering the innocent victims of landmines

Landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in almost 70 countries, claimed some 6,000 victims last year. Many thousands of other people continue to live in fear of triggering one of these devices while on the way to school, to market or to graze their livestock. The economic and social costs of this threat are substantial. Farmers in many regions avoid going to their fields and families struggle to subsist on reduced income and food for the kitchen.

The United Nations has dedicated the 4th of April each year to efforts to raise global awareness of the human losses and social constraints posed by landmines in most regions of the world. Nations who have not joined the relevant international instruments on landmines, ERW and the rights of survivors, are urged to do so, and this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made a special appeal for assistance to landmine and ERW victims.

Eritrea and Ethiopia rank second and third respectively behind Angola, as the worst landmine-affected countries in Africa. Both countries have taken the important first step to eradicating the threat by ratifying the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty. They are among 155 nations who are 'States Parties' to the Treaty. Both also work closely with UNMEE's Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC) in the Temporary Security Zone and Adjacent Areas where unexploded ordnance (UXO) dating from World War II, the Eritrean liberation war (1961-1991) and the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea (1998-2000) continue to maim and kill innocent men, women and children.

Working in close cooperation with the Eritrean Demining Agency and the Ethiopian Mine Action Office, MACC has made significant inroads on the problem wherever access has been possible and resources available. Over the past eight years, MACC has cleared a total of 31.5 million square metres of land in both countries. In 2007 alone, MACC cleared six million square metres of land and 5,000 kilometres of road, enabling displaced communities to return to their homes and fields and pursue their livelihoods in safety.

The main challenge for UNMEE has been to make land safe for the resettlement of internally displaced people and refugees, and to free land in mined areas for agricultural use. MACC teams help local populations recognize landmines and other weapons and avoid contact with them. Community briefings by UNMEE mine action personnel provide practical information on safety procedures and what to do in emergency situations involving mines and UXOs. MACC's Mine Risk Education programme reached almost 53,000 people in Ethiopia and Eritrea last year and between January 2001 to January 2008, a total of 466,249 people attended Mine Risk Education briefings.

United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). For more information on UNMEE's Mine Action activities please contact : Programme Manager Steve Robinson - email: Tel: + 291-011-150 411