International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
Posted: Wednesday, 3 April 2013, New York | Author: UNMAS
Seven-year-old Stephen Gatwech is probably the youngest victim of newly-laid mines in South Sudan. The boy was travelling with his grandmother in the volatile Unity State, close to its capital Bentiu, when their bus detonated an anti-tank mine. Passengers, many with life-threatening injuries from the blast, were flung from the vehicle.
In this region of patchy connectivity and limited health care facilities, help for the accident victims would likely have been delayed, if the deminers had not been near the site. An UNMAS implementing partner, MECHEM, was able to offer immediate assistance, carrying out emergency clearance operations. The team’s medic tended to the wounded and found Stephen lying in the dry brush, crying quietly, his left foot nearly severed.
The boy, along with eight other wounded passengers, was transferred to Unity Hospital for treatment. Two of the wounded later died of their injuries, including Stephen’s grandmother. Stephen’s leg was amputated just below the knee and the boy, accompanied by his father, was flown to Juba where he received a prosthesis and treatment at an ICRC-affiliated rehabilitation center. Staff quickly grew fond of the boy, who remained cheerful throughout the two months of rehabilitation.
Eight years ago the Member States of the United Nations declared through a General Assembly resolution that the 4 April would be officially proclaimed and observed as International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
The United Nations, Governments and civil society organizations and individuals around the globe hold ceremonies, exhibitions, fundraising events, panel discussions, educational workshops and many other activities to bring attention to the suffering and humanitarian toll that mines and explosive remnants of war reap in some 80 countries and territories. The Day is used to raise awareness, advocate for more to be done, bring attention to accomplishments and focus on on-going challenges.
Mine action, in all its aspects, is at the core of the work of the UN. It works to save lives, to facilitate deployment of UN missions and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, to protect civilians, to support the voluntary return of IDPs and refugees, to enable humanitarian and recovery activities, and to advocate for international humanitarian and human rights law.
In Geneva, New York, in Addis Ababa at the African Union, in South Sudan (where the photos above are going on display) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Côte d’Ivoire, in Mali, in Lebanon, in Darfur, in Afghanistan, Somalia, Colombia, in Iraq and in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, there will be events to mark this Day.
The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, released a statement marking this Day where he called on all Member States to join in to make the world free from the threat of landmines a reality.
“I am encouraged that 161 Member States have agreed to be bound by the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention of 1997. In addition, 111 have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and 81 States have consented to be bound by Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. 127 nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I call for universal adherence to these important treaties.
“The United Nations is strongly committed to mine awareness and mine action throughout the world. On this International Day, we reaffirm our commitment to a world free from the threat of mines and other remnants of war.”
The 14 UN entities that work on mine action adopted a new six-year
United Nations Strategy on Mine Action
at the end of last year.
The new United Nations Mine Action Gateway website or E-mine was revamped and launched today – making it simple for anyone to find out about UN demining programmes, UN documents, publications, photographs and films about UN mine action work. (www.mineaction.org)