For people living in former conflict zones, war may not end for years after the last shot has been fired and the peace agreement is signed. For example, landmines and unexploded munitions, remnants of the war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Colombian government, stand in the way of post-accord stabilization and reconstruction, and inhibit long-term development.
They render millions of hectares of land unusable, preventing farmers from tending their fields and herders from pasturing their cattle. In too many countries, ordinary travel is dangerous because roads are lined with minefields and a misstep could cost a passerby his or her life. Everyday activities like gathering wood or forest fruits, hauling produce to the market, or even taking a short-cut through the fields are fraught with danger. Too many children have lost their lives and limbs chasing a stray soccer ball into a mine field.
That is why every April 4th, we observe the United Nations’ International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The observance is meant to not only remind us that danger lingers long after the conflict is done, but also to detail all the steps taken by the international community to eliminate the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war.
“The United States is working closely with the international community to address this serious humanitarian challenge which puts innocent people, including many children, at risk,” said State Department Acting Spokesperson Mark Toner.
Since 1993, the United States has provided over $2.8 billion in assistance for conventional weapons destruction programs in some 95 countries. “These programs produce tangible, measurable, positive results by providing the expertise and equipment to safely clear landmines and other unexploded ordnance, and to assist landmine accident survivors with rehabilitation and reintegration,” said Spokesperson Toner.
“Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson underlined the essential role that demining plays in stabilization in Iraq and Syria, as civilians seek to return home to areas liberated from ISIS,” he said.
“On this day of mine awareness, we urge other nations to join us in a robust international partnership with the shared goal of reducing the impact of landmines around the world.”