6,000 landmine survivors reported in Yemen
Rammah Al-Jubari (author)
Yemen may have been one of the first signatories of the Landmines Ban Treaty in 1997, but victims of mines in this country number over 6,000. Since the 1960s, landmines have been used in conflicts, by both government and non-government forces. It’s unknown how many mines are still active and dangerous, scattered throughout mountains and fields.
The majority of those injured by landmines are children and women, Aisha Saeed, the head of the Landmines Awareness Association, said.
This is because in many rural areas—where mines are prevalent—men have immigrated to nearby cities in search of work. Women and children are left to work the land, where unexploded and active mines lay hidden and can be inadvertently set off when tending crops or grazing animals.
At a conference on Monday, the Yemen Association for Landmines and UXO Survivors and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines—alongside other national and international organizations—urged the government to offer aid to survivors and to stop planting mines in the country.
“Everyone should contribute to caring [for victims],” Houria Mashhour, the Minster of Human Rights, told the Yemen Times. “They’ve lost parts of their bodies,” she said; now they must adjust to their new lives.
Legislation is in the works, she said, that will aid this underserved community. But, Mashhour was not able to clarify details regarding the legislation.
The Yemen Association for Landmines and UXO Survivors works with victims, organizing vocational training sessions and psychological support groups, among other advocacy efforts. However, as most of the victims are illiterate and live in remote, rural areas, outreach is difficult.
Landmines threaten civilians in the North, where the government has clashed with Houthi rebels for much of the past decade, and in the South, where government forces are currently fighting Al-Qaeda affiliates. Landmines were also laid in the capital during the 2011 uprising.
At the conference, over 50 survivors were in attendance. Arwa Ali Saeed, a landmine survivor, sustained an injury in Dale governorate in 2004, from a landmine that had likely been sitting unexploded since the war of 1994. She lost both of her legs. Now she uses a wheelchair.
“I was ten years old,” Saeed remembered. “I was grazing goats in the mountain near my village. I was alone at the time of the accident.”
From the town, villagers heard the landmine explode. Someone came to find her and carry her back to her family. If they hadn’t, she would have died, she said.