UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged for joint efforts to eradicate landmines “once and for all”.
“On this international day, let us build on past progress and rid the world of the scourge of landmines once and for all,” the UN Chief said on Monday in his message for the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, observed annually on April 4.
Guterres added that although more than 160 countries have signed a landmark convention on banning landmines, more action is still needed to protect people from these “abhorrent weapons”.
“Mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices continue to kill or injure thousands of people every year — many of whom are children,” he said.
Over the weekend, the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, reported that five children — a girl and four boys — were killed on Friday when an explosive remnant of war detonated in Marjah district, Helmand province of Afghanistan. Another boy and girl were also injured.
“In Afghanistan, in the last seven months, 301 children were either killed or injured by explosive remnants of war and landmines. The real figure is thought to be much higher,” said the Secretary-General.
Guterres recalled that exactly 30 years ago, activists united to launch the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and within five years, the Mine Ban Convention opened for signature, Xinhua news agency reported.
Since then, more than 55 million mines have been destroyed, and more than 30 countries across the world have been declared mine-free. Casualties have also dramatically decreased.
“But the world is still rife with millions of stockpiled landmines and over 50 countries remain contaminated with these abhorrent weapons,” he said.
Guterres emphasised the need for greater protection for “people living under the shadow of explosive ordnance” in countries that include Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and beyond.
The Secretary-General called mine action “an investment in humanity,” adding that “it is a prerequisite for humanitarian relief efforts and the foundation of lasting peace and sustainable development”.
On December 8, 2005, the UN General Assembly declared that April 4 of each year shall be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
This year, the international day is marked under the theme of “Safe Ground, Safe Steps, Safe Home”.