Opinion: How abandoned landmines threaten lives

Decade old deserted landmines causing causalities in the present day.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/kyranlin/" target="_self">Kyran Lin</a>

Kyran Lin

May 31, 2023

In 2018, four teenagers were looking for adventure one day in eastern Ukraine. As Deutsche Welle reports, they stumbled upon an abandoned house and decided to explore it. Little did they know, there was an abandoned landmine inside, and they accidentally stepped on it. The landmine claimed three of the boys’ lives and injured the fourth. This tragic accident is not the only case of its kind, and unfortunately, it is common in many places.

All around the globe, especially in war torn regions like Colombia, Somalia, and Iraq, there are deserted landmines. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), there are an estimated 30 million mines in 18 different countries. These mines have been leftover from previous wars and zones of heavy fighting. 

In Colombia, it is thought that over 40 million square meters of the countryside are contaminated with landmines. The mines were planted over decades of conflict between armed forces, paramilitary fighters, and FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) rebels. As time passed, the mines have become forgotten and are often hidden due to landslides and undergrowth, which poses a deadly threat to farm workers. 

In Iraq, landmines were first used against the Peshmerga rebel fighters throughout the Kurdish revolution in the 1960s. Among those deadly bombs are landmines from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the 2003 US invasion to defeat Saddam Hussein, the Anfal genocide, and the war on terror against ISIS in 2014. What makes this situation even worse is that there is no record of where the landmines were planted. According to Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi forces had no maps of where the mines were planted, but they were scattered in pastures and farmlands. Millions of post-war landmines are still sitting around to this day, active, and can be triggered at any time.

The danger of these landmines is clear, but what is being done to stop it? Fortunately, everyone is beginning to take action. Nations like the United States are working towards a global ban. According to Relief Web, the Biden Administration pledged to not use antipersonnel landmines in a majority of places. This policy works towards the goal of becoming a part of the Ottawa Convention, also known as the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Already 164 countries are a part of this essential treaty. 

Another initiative that is active in over 100 countries is the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). Founded in 1992, its goal is to completely eradicate abandoned landmines by 2025. Teams all over the world work every day to make communities safer. For example, in Colombia, Ana Magali Landazuri is a mine cleaner. According to Deutsche Welle, they work with a team of three other mine cleaners, a team leader, a paramedic, and a supervisor; they work eight hours a day to rid Southern Colombia of mines. 

However, with all this international effort, the process is still time consuming, and the lives of innocent civilians are taken by landmines to this day. A recent report by the ICBL states that more than 70% of landmine victims are civilians who stepped on a landmine after armed conflicts have ended. One-third of the casualties are children and women. To add to this problem, many of these incidents happen in rural areas, where access to medical attention is not immediate. The ICRC writes that surgeons assume that more than half of the victims pass away within minutes of the explosion. If the blast does not kill them, they are disabled for life, their injuries often resulting in amputation.

These forgotten enemies are a danger to all. It does not discriminate against its victim, killing anyone regardless of their job, race, or age. Every landmine removed is a life saved.

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