Landmines killed more than 2,000 people in 2016 | News | DW | 14.12.2017
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Landmines killed more than 2,000 people in 2016

Despite being weapons of war it is usually civilians who fall victim to landmines. Last year more children than ever were among the more than 2,000 people killed by mines.

Landmines were responsible for 2,089 deaths among 8,605 casualties in 2016 – the highest number since 1999 – the 2017 Landmine Monitor showed on Thursday.

The report from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said at least 498 children were killed and 1,046 injured, with many more likely to be among the more than 3,000 victims whose ages were not recorded.

Landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) caused 8,605 casualties, including deaths. 2016 also saw the highest number of casualties caused by improvised mines.

The use of mines by government forces in Myanmar and Syria were the only confirmed instances of newly planted mines during the reporting period.

Read more: Myanmar Rohingya crackdown: 'A textbook example of ethnic cleansing,' says UN

Landmine victims are assisted eating their lunch. (Giovanni Diffidenti for ICBL)

Civilians are often the innocent victims of landmines

The report said the "exceptionally high” number of casualties was mostly due to the armed conflict in Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen, and the use of not only mines and ERW, but improvised explosive devices that are triggered in the same way as mines.Loren Persi, a casualties and victim assistance editor of Landmine Monitor, told DW that intense conflicts were the reason for such a high number of casualties.

"Casualties were especially high in 2016 because of the mines and explosive remnants in countries experiencing conflicts, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine, Myanmar and Syria. In the countries with the highest casualties improvised mines are used extensively," Persi said. 

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Despite being weapons of war, it is usually civilians who fall victim to the devices. Civilians accounted for up to 78 percent of casualties in 2016, a number which is similar to previous years.

Read more: HRW: Houthi rebels, allies using banned landmines in Yemen

The weapons can be found on roads, footpaths, farmers' fields, forests, deserts, along borders, in and surrounding houses and schools, and in other places where people are carrying out their daily activities, the report said.

In 2016, about 170 square kilometers (105 square miles) were cleared of landmines and more than 230,000 landmines were destroyed. Algeria and Mozambique declared themselves free of landmines in 2017.

The report said international donors had increased support for mine action, an umbrella term which includes clearance, victim assistance, risk education, stockpile destruction, monitoring and advocacy.

A total of 32 donors contributed $479.5 million (€405 million) for mine action in 40 states and three other areas, an increase of almost $85.5 million from 2015. Contributions from affected states to their own national programs came to $85 million, and global contributions totaled $56.5 million.

An elephant is treated for injuries sustained from a landmine. (Giovanni Diffidenti for ICBL)

Landmines affect animals as well as people

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which calls for the clearance of known mines and explosives within 10 years, currently has 163 signatories. Sri Lanka on Wednesday became the 163rd State Party to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty, ICBL told DW.

"The treaty and the community of states and civil society implementing it, together create something bigger and that is a norm against the use and a stigma on the users,” Persi told DW. "This means that anyone using landmines is aware that the rest of the world knows they are doing is inevitably devastating to civilians.”

Among 61 countries and other sovereignty-disputed areas known to have landmines, 33 are state parties to the mine ban, but just Chile, Mauritania, Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo appear to be on track to meet the clearance deadline.

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