While the impacts of explosive weapons have been highly visible and documented, the unexploded remnants of these weapons and landmines have received limited attention despite their long-term implications.
More donor support is needed to help close the US$1.5 billion funding gap in the Sahel this year and protect the livelihoods of the estimated 20.2 million people who are at risk of food insecurity. Only 30 percent of the $2.2 billion dollar appeal to fight hunger and malnutrition, and build resilience in the region has been met by donors as of July, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Although landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) impact people living in post-conflict communities, many civilians are not knowledgeable about the types of explosive remnants of war (ERW) that threaten their daily lives. Landmine museums that display landmines and UXO that are no longer dangerous can be enlightening for visitors. Post-conflict communities in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia have established at least 13 museums featuring landmines and ERW.
By now images of the smoldering wreckage of Malaysian flight 17 have started to circulate online and on television. The aircraft, a Boeing-777 with 295 people aboard, was on a routine flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it unexpectedly dropped off radar. Moments later it crashed near Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
So many moments stay with me. During the course of this recent mission in South Sudan people recounted unimaginable suffering and acute fear; they showed tremendous strength and unflagging resilience; and they shared both deep despair and determined hope.
The big international aid agencies have been hugely successful. Organizations that were once small civil society operations - groups of friends with a passion to make the world a better place - now have thousands of staff members, multi-storey headquarters buildings and multi-million dollar budgets. But insiders fret that they have become too big and have lost the flexibility and responsiveness they once had.
Government has appealed to the international community to chip in with about $100 million required to speed up the demining of the country’s borders after the exercise was allocated a paltry $500 000 by Treasury this year.
Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Martin Rushwaya told Parliament yesterday that the paltry allocation from Treasury had stalled the programme.
“We were only allocated $500 000 in the 2014 national Budget for demining and we appeal to the international community to support us to complete the demining exercise,” Rushwaya said.
Director of the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre Colonel Mkhululi Ncube warned members of the public against tampering with landmines after being misled into believing that the explosives contained red mercury.
The Belgian soldiers didn’t even flinch when the mines exploded meters behind them, sending a plume of dust and smoke into the sky.
“We’re used to it,” Lt. Steven Roels said with a good-natured shrug.
For the past four months, Roels and a platoon of Belgian soldiers in UNIFIL have worked six days a week clearing mines along the Lebanese-Israeli border, and the blasts have slowly become routine inflections in their daily rhythm.
In two weeks, however, Roels and the rest of the battalion will hang up their trademark blue helmets and head home.
Four Tunisian soldiers were killed by a land mine Wednesday in the country’s northwest, where the army has been battling Islamist militants, the defence ministry said.
“Four soldiers aboard a Hummer were killed by a land mine explosion during an anti-terror operation” at Jebel Ouergha in Kef province, said ministry spokesman Rachid Bouhoula.
Weapons “caches of the terrorists were destroyed and units of the security forces pursued these elements,” Bouhoula told AFP.
The incident is the latest in a string of fatalities caused by roadside bombs and land mines in the remote border region, parts of which have been declared closed military zones as the security forces press a campaign against militants holed up there.
Landmines are buried in conflict-torn areas in Asia and elsewhere in the world. Even after the conflicts end for which they were buried, the mines continue to inflict harm. Each year, they kill or injure some 3,600 people. The United Nations is conducting a project to recruit women to engage in mine-clearing operations in their communities and help accelerate post-conflict reconstruction. We talked to the head of the UN Mine Action Service about what women, in particular, have to offer.
Mortars and Projectiles From the Battle of Peleliu (1944) Lay Abandoned in the Republic of Palau
In 2012, the United States marked the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landing at Guadalcanal, which led in 1943 to a strategic victory in the Pacific. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) began providing support for conventional weapons destruction assistance in the Pacific Islands in 2009. Many of the island nations, including what is now the Solomon Islands, saw heavy fighting between Allied and Japanese forces during the so-called “island-hopping” campaign between 1942 and the war’s end in 1945.
More than seventy years later, communities on many of these islands still face hidden hazards from bombs, mortars, artillery shells, and other unexploded ordnance (UXO), but a recent U.S. initiative is harnessing data to find and locate these abandoned armaments faster, and bring long overdue peace of mind to area residents.
Many of these abandoned munitions are of U.S. origin, and lay buried on land or in the surrounding waters, posing not only a safety risk but also a barrier to economic development. These munitions also present the United States with a unique opportunity to take action and make these islands a safer place for everyone. For this reason, the Department has prioritized the safe removal of these legacies of war in the East Asia and Pacific region.
The United States will phase out its stockpiles of landmines designed to target people, moving closer to joining a global ban on a weapon that kills more than 15,000 people a year — most of them civilians.
U.S. officials made the declaration at an anti-mine conference in Maputo, Mozambique, according to a statement issued by National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
Activists have long pressured the United States to join the international treaty banning the production, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel landmines — the kind meant to kill or maim when someone steps on them.
A Deminer Working for the HALO Trust on the Job in Colombia
In several Latin American countries, decades of conflict have left behind a dangerous legacy: small arms and light weapons in unsecured stockpiles; excess and obsolete munitions; and hidden hazards from landmines and unexploded ordnance. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is working closely with partner countries and nongovernmental organizations to enhance Latin American regional security by funding conventional weapons destruction and landmine clearance projects. A team of PM/WRA experts recently went to Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras to participate in a landmine survivors’ assistance conference and take stock of progress to date and the challenges ahead for U.S.-funded humanitarian demining and weapons destruction projects.
The first stop was the Bridges Between Worlds conference held in Medellin, Colombia. With over 300 representatives from 36 countries and numerous NGOs in attendance, the two-day event focused on enhancing landmine survivors’ assistance and integrating survivor assistance policy into broader national policies regarding disability, health, education, employment, development, and poverty reduction. The conference location was especially significant; Colombia is one of the most landmine-affected countries in the world and is second only to Afghanistan in the number of disabled survivors of accidents involving landmines and unexploded ordnance.
Following the conference, our team visited landmine survivors in San Carlos, Colombia, along with staff from our partners at the Centro Integral de Rehabilitacion de Colombia (CIREC). CIREC is a Colombian NGO specializing in medical and psychological services for conflict survivors. With U.S. support, CIREC has deployed “rehabilitation brigades” to assist landmine survivors and other persons with disabilities throughout Colombia’s conflict-affected regions. CIREC’s rehabilitation brigades provide services in orthopedics, psychiatry, and physical and psychological therapy to those most in need.
Sithon will treasure this planting season as a special one: for the first time since the Vietnam War he could seed his rice safely, after MAG cleared almost 400 explosive weapons from his land.
"There were bombies [the local term for cluster submunitions] everywhere." Fifty-nine year old Sithon Manyvong recalls returning home to Naphia in 1975 after the Vietnam War had ended.
Naphia village is in Phaxay district, one of the areas of Xieng Khouang province most affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO) – the bombies, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades that did not explode when they were used, continuing to pose a risk of detonation.
On 5 June 2014, in Ramalan, in the Kurdish region of Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), and the « Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava » signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning AP mines and the Deed of Commitment prohibiting sexual violence in armed conflict and against gender discrimination.
The YPG-YPJ are the dominant military force in the Kurdish-populated areassince the withdrawal of most Government forces in 2012 and have been mainly fighting against Islamist armed groups, notably the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Al-Nusra Front. The « Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava » was formed in January 2014 and is the de facto governing authority in the Kurdish areas.
“We commend the signatories, by signing these Deeds of Commitment, they show their willingness to abide by the highest international standards and pledge to take further action to protect civilians from the threat of landmines and sexual violence” said Pascal Bongard, Geneva Call’s Head of Operations, during the ceremony.
Greece has announced that it has made significant advances in the destruction of all stockpiled anti-personnel mines in accordance with its obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, or Ottawa Convention.
“The transfer by Greece of anti-personnel mines to a special facility in Bulgaria, where nearly a million landmines will be destroyed, is well underway,” said Alexandros Alexandris, Ambassador of Greece to the United Nations (Geneva).
“As of today, 224,101 anti-personnel mines have been transferred to Bulgaria and, of these, 56,530 anti-personnel mines DM-31-type mines have been destroyed.”
Cambodian de-miners at work in a mine field in Banteay Meanchey province in northwestern Cambodia. (UNDP/Chansok Lay)
The first four months of 2014 saw a 61 percent increase of landmine casualties compared to the same period of the previous year, according to a report released by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.
During January to April of 2014, a total of 71 casualties occurred, including 10 deaths and 61 injuries, some of which required amputations. In the same four months of 2013, only 44 landmine incidents befell victims, and 87 percent were male. Of these, 4 were deaths and 40 were injuries.
In a rare accident, 2 deminers working for HALO Trust were killed instantly last May after triggering an anti-tank mine while trimming grass in their clearance area, located in Samlot district, Battambang province.
grew up just outside Kabul, Afghanistan. As a child, he witnessed horrible tragedies caused by land mines that remain scattered across the region. Land mines are a global safety concern, with more than 110 million of these killing devices planted around the world. Each year, more than 20,000 people are killed and many times more maimed or injured by them. Hassani resolved at a very young age to somehow help eradicate these evil contraptions.
Throughout his childhood, Hassani loved to create toys, some of which were wind-powered and would blow across the desert near his home. Years later, this memory would return to him and suggest a solution: a wind-powered toy to clear land mines.
Land mine removal techniques have continued in basically the same manner since the 1960’s. Traditional practices are expensive, dangerous, and ineffective. Hassani took a creative leap; he invented the Mine Kafon, meaning mine “exploder” in his native language. The Mine Kafon is made of approximately 100 bamboo rods radiating out from a central hub. At the end of each six-foot rod, a clay disc is attached. The finished product looks much like an enormous dandelion gone to seed and ready to blow into the wind. The device is light enough to roll across the desert ground, much like the toys Hassani designed as a kid, yet the discs are heavy enough to detonate the land mines hidden under the earth’s surface. The Mine Kafon – a complete departure from today’s painstaking searches by humans and dogs – promises to be safer, and over 100 times less expensive. The invention is so clever that it has been placed on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In April 2014 HALO Zimbabwe destroyed its 1,000th mine, a mere six months after the start of demining operations in November last year. The achievement is all the more notable for the fact that the clearance is taking place in difficult conditions within a few metres of a road, a village and a school.
Zimbabwe’s mines problem receives little public attention but the border communities are severely impacted. HALO’s survey to date indicates that there are 12 minefields within 150m of schools, 19 minefields within 50m of houses and 31 minefields within 10m of cultivated land. There is a need to get funding for more HALO deminers as soon as possible to reduce the threat faced by these communities and to allow them to use their land without fear.
MBDA France S.A.’s Souvim II mine-sweeping vehicle uses Michelin’s ultra low-ground-pressure LX PSI tire to maneuver through mine fields safely. Photo courtesy of Group Michelin Photo.
Low ground pressure tires have revolutionized farming, but Group Michelin has taken the concept one step further, developing an ultra LGP tire that allows a 15,000-pound vehicle to roll through a minefield unscathed.
Michelin claims a 7½-ton mine-clearing vehicle equipped with its new tire exerts less ground pressure per square inch than a human’s footfall — roughly half a pound per square inch.
Bees bred to sniff out explosives in hope of speeding up clearing of a million landmines left during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war
Biologists in France and Croatia have successfully reared “sniffer bees” which they claim could swiftly pinpoint mines and explosives that remain hidden underground in the Balkans.
The insects are said to have an olfactory sense as strong as sniffer dogs, and it is hoped they will speed up urgent operations to clear thousands of landmines left over from the region’s war in the Ninetires that have been disturbed in the Balkans’ worst flooding since record keeping began.
The floods and landslides raised fears about the estimated million land mines planted during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. Nearly 120,000 of the unexploded devices remain in more than 9,400 carefully marked minefields. But the weather toppled warning signs and, in many cases, dislodged the mines themselves.
The term “Improvised Explosive Device”, also known as an IED is the choice of destruction for domestic and international terrorism.
It has killed U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. An IED was also used in the worst domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history in Oklahoma City at the Murrah Federal Building in 1995. Other IEDs have been used domestically on smaller scales over the last several decades.
Warren Lerner is an Air Force combat veteran (Gulf War and Panama). When he decided to pursue his Doctor of Science degree at Capitol College in Laurel, Maryland, he had a thought.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement is deploying the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), a group of civilian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts, to Serbia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), a statement from the US Department of State reads.
The QRF will arrive on May 26 and work with local officials of both the Serbian and BiH Mine Action Centers to survey landmine-contaminated areas affected by the recent widespread floods.
Heavy rains in the Balkans have caused widespread flooding that has led to the possible shifting and uncovering of some of the 120,000 landmines remaining from the 1992-1995 conflict associated with the break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.