LONDON — War scars a population for decades after the final bullet flies. For the majority of the time, war is discriminatory, as opposing sides aim to kill each other but not the civilian population. Landmines and cluster munitions do not discriminate, and are incapable of identifying a civilian from a soldier. When the war ends, mines do not turn off but remain active for decades, causing generations to suffer. It is the world’s responsibility to increase funding for the clearing of mines to alleviate the suffering of future generations.
The inhumane aspects of these weapons make us question why we are discussing their use in 2017, as they continue to kill and injure thousands around the world.
Antipersonnel landmines are “explosive devices designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person. Placed under or on the ground, they can lie dormant for years and even decades until a person or animal triggers their detonating mechanism.”
“In Cambodia, more than 35,000 people have been injured by landmines.” A typical mine injury is focused on one or both legs, since stepping on the mine triggered the blast. The initial blast tears the foot apart, completely destroying it. Dirt, mine fragments, bone, and tissue are pushed up into the remainder of the leg, genitalia, hip and torso due to the power and force of the blast. Then, the outer leg skin returns to its original place hiding the extent of the injury. Most victims cannot afford a prosthetic and their country does not have disability benefits. This injury forces the victim into a life of poverty, discomfort, infection and, often, homelessness for the remainder of his or her life.
Princess Diana of Wales was the first celebrity to bring attention to the horror of mines, as well as the need to increase funding for the clearing of mines. Her trip to Bosnia, volunteer work in hospitals and her choice to walk through a mine zone brought much attention to the world. Living in fear during a war is one thing. However, Diana felt there was no reason for a population to continually live in fear and suffer after the end of a war.
The same year Diana died, the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty was signed. The treaty is a binding international agreement that bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines. It also places obligations on countries to clear affected areas, but this takes much funding for the clearing of mines. Many experts believe the treaty would not have been signed in 1997 without the work, time and media attention of Princess Diana.
Although she died before she could see the results of her work, her two sons have continued to carry on her passion and empathetic spirit. The U.K. celebrated the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance with a pledge of $125 million, over three years, of funding for the clearing of mines in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Somalia, and South Sudan.
Prince Harry spoke at the reception stating his goal to rid the world of landmines by 2025. “Even if the world decided tomorrow to ban these weapons, this terrible legacy of mines already in the earth would continue to plague the poor nations of the globe,” Harry said, quoting his mother, Diana.
The United Kingdom is not alone in this commitment to increase funding for the clearing of mines. The United States, the largest funder, provided approximately $119 million in 2015, according to the Landmine Monitor, which calculated total international funding, for the clearing of mines, declined from $500 million in 2012 to $352 million in 2015. Despite the decline from 2012-2015, the data from 2016 appears promising as well as the national commitments from 2017, thus far.
The twentieth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, as well as the financial commitments from the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Mexico, in the spring of 2017, are likely to raise awareness and reinvigorate total funding for the clearing of mines in the coming years.
– Danielle Preskitt