By Robin Gomes
As the world marked the International Mine Awareness Day on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged governments to provide political and financial support to keep up the vital work of mine action wherever it is needed.
In a video message for the annual April 4 observance, the UN chief spoke about how mines prevent works of peace and development.
“An unprecedented volume of landmines and unexploded weapons contaminates rural and urban war zones, maiming and killing innocent civilians long after conflict has ended,” Guterres said.
On December 8, 2005, the UN General Assembly designated April 4 each year as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
The theme for this year’s observance was, “Advancing Protection, Peace and Development.”
Noting that that roads cleared of explosive devices enable peacekeepers to patrol and protect civilians, Guterres stressed that mine action is vital. He said that when “fields are cleared and schools and hospitals are made safe normal life can resume.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) particularly appealed for Syria on the International Mine Awareness Day saying mine clearance there is a matter of urgency.
They said more than 8 million people in Syria, including over 3 million children, are exposed to explosive hazards.
British actor Daniel Craig, known for his role as James Bond, who is the UN Global Advocate for the Elimination of Mines and other Explosive Hazards, stated that landmines, grenades, missiles and other explosive weapons are a “deadly legacy” of conflict in places such as Cambodia, Somalia, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He noted that “after 2 decades of steadily diminishing casualty numbers, people being killed or injured by explosive hazards has leapt to a reported high of 8600 per year.” He regarded this “an unimaginable figure and almost certainly an undercount”.
Deminers and educators
Craig said that on International Mine Awareness Day, the world remembers and pays tribute to the thousands of teachers providing risk education, and the deminers around the globe who devote their lives to making the world a safer place — not just for now but for generations to come.
According to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), mine action, including clearance, risk education and assistance to victims is critical for advancing protection, peace and development.
According to the UN Secretary-General, “In our turbulent world, mine action is a concrete step towards peace.” (Source: UN)