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Ahead of International Day, senior UN official urges support for mine action

Ahead of International Day, senior UN official urges support for mine action

While the number of victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war has dropped significantly in the last decade, continued support is crucial to eliminating the threat posed by these deadly devices and ensuring a mine-free world, a senior United Nations humanitarian official said today.

Joint efforts by the UN and its partners in demining, mine-risk education and victim assistance have led to a reduction in the number of new casualties from 26,000 in 1997 to about 6,000 in 2006, said Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

“We in the UN would want the number of new casualties to be reduced to zero as soon as possible,” she told reporters on the eve of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, observed on 4 April.

Ms. Bragg, who is also Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that the number of survivors continues to increase, with an estimated 473,000 people who may need life-long medical care and rehabilitation services.

According to the non-governmental Landmine Survivors Network, for each survivor, there are about four or five victims – members of families whose breadwinners may have lost limbs or eyesight. “That adds up to close to two million victims,” she said.

In the decade since the landmark international anti-landmine treaty, often referred to as the Ottawa Convention, opened for signature, legal trade in anti-personnel landmines has been halted, tens of millions of stockpiled landmines have been destroyed and land has been cleared and returned to communities.

A team of 14 UN agencies, programmes, departments and funds – comprising the UN mine action team – supports and manages programmes in 42 countries and territories. “The UN pledges its support to any State that requests it,” Ms. Bragg said.

“But our goal is to put ourselves out of business as soon as possible by eliminating the threat and by equipping national authorities with the technical and human resources they need to address the problems on their own,” she added.

The International Day is being observed globally through a number of events, including press conferences, mine-risk education theatre performances, art exhibits and film screenings.