As conflicts end, and as occupation forces are pushed out of territories they once controlled, they leave in their wake, towns and fields contaminated with land-mines and unexploded ordnance. Every year, these remnants of war kill and maim thousands of civilians.
Just a few years ago, land-mines and stray explosives killed nearly 10,000 men, women and children every year. Thanks to an international demining effort, by 2014, the casualties dropped to 3,678. But that’s still nearly four thousand victims too many. Still, money grows tight all over the world, and international donations for this worthwhile effort have been declining.
“This funding decrease, for example, has severely affected the Angola’s ability to make up the shortfall in demining support from its oil revenues,” wrote Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller in a recent blog post. “Unless we reinvigorate international donor support, Angola could remain impacted by mines and unexploded ordnance well past 2040. We can save countless lives and limbs if we can move the deadline closer by 10, even 15 years.”
The United States is a leader in the international demining effort, and the single largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction programs in the world. Since 1992, we have provided more than $2.5 billion in assistance in more than 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs. These funds provide the expertise and equipment to safely clear landmines and other unexploded ordnance, support programs which assist landmine accident survivors, and destroy excess weapons and ammunition.
“Unless people can rebuild their communities, tend their fields, and safely transport goods to markets, development and reconstruction may falter. When we invest in mine action and conventional weapons destruction, we not only protect civilians from explosive remnants of war, but we also enable lasting peace,” wrote Under Secretary Gottemoeller.
The United States pledges to continue to do its part in this effort, and we urge governments, civil society, and the private sector to increase their funding for this essential effort.
“Together,” wrote Under Secretary Gottemoeller, “we have made so much progress. And together, we can more rapidly reach the goal of enabling all to walk the earth in safety.”