UN joins Sri Lankan efforts to reduce landmine casualties

UN joins Sri Lankan efforts to reduce landmine casualties

As Sri Lankans return to their fields to begin planting and harvesting their crops, the United Nations is supporting a national campaign to prevent them reaping a deadly harvest – hidden mines and other explosives seeded throughout the north and east from decades of war between the Government and Tamil separatists.

To help raise awareness, especially for children, of the dangers of injury and death, the first week of July and August have been designated National Mine Action weeks across Sri Lanka by the National Steering Committee on Mine Action.

"If we can reach people now so that they take the necessary precautions before they go back to the fields, then we can save lives. That is the aim of the Mine Action weeks," UNICEF country representative Ted Chaiban said. "We need to keep people focused on the dangers posed by landmines when they go back to the fields to reduce the risks they face each day."

UNICEF is the lead agency for Mine Risk Education in Sri Lanka and globally, and operates under the overall coordination of the National Steering Committee on Mine Action. UNICEF and it partners focus their work on school and community-based initiatives to educate children and communities about the dangers. UNICEF is also providing support to survivors.

"Last year, the intensive efforts of the mine action community, including UNICEF and its partners, had a real impact on decreasing the number of new casualties," Dr. Kunasingham, senior adviser for the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, said.

"Mine Risk Education activities have played a major part in this success. In fact, since 2002, mine accidents have decreased from 12 per month to only 4 per month by the end of 2004," he added.