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November 10, 2021

7,073 victims - Landmine casualties increase as COVID-19 impedes Humanitarian Mine Action

Silver Spring, Maryland, 2021. The Monitor reports data from 2020, tallying 7,073 casualties, of which civilians account for 80%. This high figure is mainly the result of increased armed conflict and contamination with improvised mines since 2015. Humanity & Inclusion calls on States—which gather from November 15 -19, for the annual Mine Ban Treaty conference—to enforce international humanitarian law and to pressure parties to conflict to end the use of these barbaric weapons

21% increase in casualties since 2019

The 2021 Landmine Monitor reports measures of the impact of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines for the 2020 calendar year, including information included through October 2021 when possible. 

This year’s Monitor reveals that the number of new casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war reached 7,073 in 2020 and has remained high for six years in a row (see figure 1 above).

The 2020 total marks a 21% increase from the 5,853 casualties recorded in 2019. It is more than twice the lowest determined yearly total, which was 3,465 in 2013. On average, there were 10 casualties per day in 2013. In 2020, this figure skyrocketed to 19 casualties per day. The Monitor underlines that casualties go unrecorded in many areas so the true figure is likely significantly higher.

“HI is deeply concerned that the number of mine victims remains exceptionally high for the sixth year in a row. Current conflicts and the intense use of improvised mines seem to be the cause. This means that vast territories are newly contaminated and will require long and complex clearance operations. Until then, civilians will be living in fear, under the threat of mines, and a lot of otherwise productive land will remain uninhabitable” says Jeff Meer, Humanity & Inclusion U.S. Executive Director.

How, who, where?

In 2021, for the fifth successive year, the highest number of annual casualties was caused by improvised mines. Out of the 7,073 casualties recorded in 2020, improvised mines are responsible for about a third (2,119). Explosive remnants of war caused 1,760 casualties. The vast majority of people killed or injured by landmines are civilians: 80% of casualties were civilians in 2020 (4,437), 1,872 of whom were children.

In 2020, Syria, which is not a state party to the Mine Ban Treaty, recorded the most casualties (2,729), followed by Afghanistan (1,474), Mali (368), Yemen (350), Myanmar (280), Ukraine (277), Nigeria (226), Colombia (167) Iraq (161) and Burkina Faso (111). Worldwide, 50 States and three territories recorded mine casualties.

“Mines kill or cause complex injuries, often with serious disabling consequences, and psychological trauma. Survivors suffer from social stigma and frequently cannot find work. Many countries already ban the use of anti-personnel landmines, and those commitments to international law must be respected,” says Meer.

The Landmine Monitor confirmed new uses of landmines by government forces in Myanmar between mid-2020 through October 2021. During that same time, non-state armed groups were found to have used landmines in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The Monitor also says there were as yet unconfirmed allegations of new mine use by non-state armed groups in Cameroon, Egypt, Niger, the Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, and Venezuela.

Impact of COVID-19 on mine action

Measures against COVID-19 had a serious impact on mine action in 2020. Restrictions prevented survivors and other persons with disabilities from accessing services that Humanity & Inclusion provides (rehabilitation, social services) in several mine-affected countries. Clearance was temporarily suspended or adapted.

Progress to date

States reported clearing nearly 146km² of land, with more than 135,000 landmines destroyed in 2020. To date, 94 States have destroyed more than 55 million stockpiled landmines, including more than 106,500 destroyed in 2020 – mines that will never claim any victims. Sri Lanka is the latest state to have completed destruction of its stockpile in 2021.

“The States Parties of the Ottawa Treaty have set the goal to reach a mine free world by 2025 – this will only be reached if all states intensify their commitment in the fight against landmines,” says Anne Héry, Humanity & Inclusion’s Advocacy Director.

The U.S. is one of the few countries that has yet to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, sharing ranks with China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia. There are 164 States parties to the treaty, making the ban on landmines a universal norm of international humanitarian law. However, the great paradox of this policy shift is that for nearly 30 years, the U.S. has refrained from using or trading antipersonnel landmines.

Humanity & Inclusion urges President Biden to back away from a 2020 Landmine policy enacted by President Trump, which effectively gives U.S. troops the green light to research new landmines, and to deploy these indiscriminate weapons in combat. Humanity & Inclusion is Chairing the Steering Committee for the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines – U.S. Campaign to Ban Cluster Munitions.

Notes

  • You can access a copy of the Landmine Monitor 2021 on November 10, 2021.
  • Interviews with Humanity & Inclusion’s advocacy & mine action experts, including Jeff Meer and Anne Héry (quoted), upon request.
  • The Ottawa Treaty bans the acquisition, production, stockpiling, trade and use of anti-personnel mines. The treaty was opened for signing on 3rd December 1997 and entered into force on 1st March 1999. A total of 164 states are party to the treaty, and one state (the Marshall Islands) has signed but not ratified the treaty.
  • The Landmine Monitor 2021 report measures the impact of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines for the calendar year 2020, with information included through October 2021 when possible.
  • Photo: © Waleed Khaled, 2019/ HI. Risk education session in the Kafrouk village around Mosul. Mohammed, Head of HI’s Risk Education team, teaches children to recognize the dangers of explosive remnants of war.

About Humanity & Inclusion  

Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization, working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for close to 40 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and people living in situations of extreme vulnerability, our action and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) mobilizes resources, jointly manages projects, and increases the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. The organization has numerous prizes to its name, including the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the 1996 Nansen Prize, and two 2020 European Union Horizon Prizes for innovation. Humanity & Inclusion acts and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task. The U.S. office of Humanity & Inclusion is currently Chairing the Steering Committee for the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines – U.S. Campaign to Ban Cluster Munitions. Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.