Once the fighting ends, peace treaties are signed and armies disbanded, too often the world assumes that life in former conflict areas will soon return to normal. But in many countries, landmines and unexploded munitions kill and maim their victims decades after the original conflict is little more than an ugly memory.
Left-over landmines and unexploded munitions stand in the way of post-conflict stabilization and inhibit long-term development. So clearly, communities can only realize the benefits of a return to peace and further promote stability and security after these deadly hazards are removed.
“Since 1993, [the United States has] been a leading contributor to the international demining efforts, providing more than $2.3 billion in assistance to over 90 countries in order to deal with this,” said Secretary of State John Kerry:
“We’ve helped clear former mine fields so that preschools can be built in Sri Lanka. With our assistance, children once tethered to trees so that they wouldn’t wander out into the killing fields now pass through large areas of countryside without fear in Angola. And we’ve helped 15 countries, from Honduras to Tunisia to Rwanda, to declare themselves free from the impact of landmines.”
Secretary Kerry spoke at the release of the 13th edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety, a report which details U.S. efforts to reduce the harmful effects of poorly secured, unstable, or illegally traded conventional weapons of war. According to this report, in 2013, the United States provided more than $142 million in assistance to 49 countries.
This includes a new agreement with Vietnam to expand bilateral cooperation on unexploded ordnance issues; an initiative to safeguard arms stockpiles and destroy light weapons in the Sahel and the Maghreb; and support for a quick-response team of civilian Explosive Ordnance Disposal technical experts.
“No human being should be afraid to go out and fetch firewood. No traveler should fear to just wander down a hillside path. No mother should worry that her child is going to run around and play, but might be blown up and never to return safely from school or from an afternoon of innocent frolicking,” said Secretary Kerry.
“Today, we reaffirm our resolve to help all people everywhere to be able to walk safely.”