International Day of Mine Awareness- April 4

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About 20 years back, I was drawn to the topic of “mines” and  “bans on  landmines” through Lady Diana’s work in Angola  in getting landmines detonated. Per se it may not be a medical topic but it is an important one because of the large scale destruction an exploded landmine can cause.

What are landmines ?

Landmines are indiscriminately used weapons, that cause damage to civilians and unsuspecting people long after a war has ended. Primarily  they are explosive devices buried under the ground that detonate because of pressure when a tank or a person steps on it because no one knows where one is hidden in the ground.

The Ottawa Treaty

A few months after Princess Diana died, a treaty was opened which disallowed the ” stockpiling ,production and transfer of landmines” , which now 164 world countries have signed. But there is a long way to go. Seventy eight world countries still have landmines and each year about 15000 people die due to landmine injuries.

Why is it relevant ?

The issue of landmines has come back into focus now because of the war over Ukraine. Reports say that Russian forces are using “ anti-personnel” landmines designed to kill or maim human beings within a 16 mile radius”.

Surprisingly, India has one of the largest stockpiles of landmines according to reports. This would mean that it is not signatory to the Ottawa Treaty. We are losing our people to these antiquated weapons but no one speaks of them. I am not sure if it is any consolation that Colombia, Libya, Pakistan or Myanmar are other countries that still find use for them. 

Harm caused by landmines

Apart from the obvious ones of death and maiming,  active  landmines cause other collateral damage . Natural disasters can dislodge landmines, making it  very difficult to track them. This has happened during  floods in the Mozambique. As imagined, there is land degradation in areas where landmines are located- damage to wildlife, soil, chemical composition and the microbiome occur.

Though humans may not use areas which have landmines, unbeknown to them, access denial can lead to a revamping of the wildlife and soil of the area.

The importance of April the 4th

Since 2005, the United Nations General Assembly has declared April 4th as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. In 2022, today will remind us that   “ Safe Ground, Safe Steps, Safe Home”  are a basic human requirement.

The aim of the international community is to turn minefields into safe playgrounds. “Safe steps”  aim to make every step  in a landmine area safe for us and the deminers, who clear land of mines.  Safe homes talks about making homes safe for security personnel and people in post conflict areas.

Open our eyes to the the events that happen around us.  Remember that when our army reports a blast in which our army personnel are killed or maimed, it could be due to landmines. Let us use this day to pay tribute to the victims of landmines.

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