Published on Thursday November 12, the Landmine Monitor 2020 reports an exceptionally high number of casualties caused by landmines, particularly explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised mines, for the fifth year running.
The Monitor recorded 5,554 mine casualties during 2019; 80% of whom were civilians, with children representing 43% of the civilian casualties. This high figure is mainly due to intense armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and other conflict areas. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is calling on states – that will gather online from November 16th-20th for the annual Mine Ban Treaty conference - to enforce international humanitarian law and to put pressure on belligerent parties to end the use of these barbaric weapons. As the COVID-19 pandemic challenges humanitarian mine action in many countries, HI is also calling on states to maintain efforts to adapt mine action activities to public health restrictions in order to free the world of mines.
High casualties rates for five consecutive years
The Landmine Monitor reveals that the number of new casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war reached 5,554 in 2019 and remains high for the fifth year in a row (6,897 in 2018, 7,253 in 2017, 9,439 in 2016 and 6,971 in 2015). The 2019 total is still 60% higher than the lowest determined annual number of 3,457 casualties in 2013. There was an average of 10 casualties per day in 2013; in 2019, the rate rocketed to 15 casualties per day. The Monitor underlines that casualties go unrecorded in many states and areas, meaning the true casualty figure is likely significantly higher.
For the fourth successive year, in 2019, the highest number of annual casualties was caused by improvised mines. Out of a total of 5,554 mine casualties recorded in 2019, 2,994 people were killed or injured by improvised mines.
Though mainly used by non-state armed groups, improvised landmines fall within the scope of the Ottawa Treaty and its prohibition of the use of any indiscriminate weapons. Dialogue with some non-state armed groups to convince them to abandon such practices and to commit to the Treaty is possible. Mine clearance – which is an obligation of the Ottawa Treaty - is a way to deny these groups access to weapons and munitions as many improvised mines are made using disposed of explosives or remnants of them.
The vast majority of people killed by anti-personnel mines are civilians: 80% of casualties were civilians in 2019 (4,466), of whom 43% were children (1,562). Explosive remnants of war caused the most child casualties (756, or 49%). In 2019, the majority of new casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war were recorded in Afghanistan (1,538), Syria (1,125), Myanmar (358), Mali (345), Ukraine (324), Yemen (248), Nigeria (238) and Iraq (161). Mine casualties were recorded in 50 states and five territories around the world.
New reported mine use
The Landmine Monitor confirmed new uses of anti-personnel mines by government forces in Myanmar between October 2019 and October 2020. Non-State armed groups also used landmines, including improvised mines, in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Libya, Myanmar, and Pakistan. The Monitor also says there were as yet unconfirmed allegations of new mine use by non-state armed groups in 12 countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, etc.) These uses have caused high-level contamination that will endanger the lives of thousands of people over the long-term. A total of 60 states and territories have been contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war around the world.
COVID-19 impacts mine action
Measures against COVID-19 had a serious impact on mine action in 2020. Restrictions prevented survivors and other persons with disability from accessing services they needed (rehabilitation, social services, etc.) in several mine-affected countries. Clearance was temporally suspended as well as risk education sessions that were adapted to constraints and restrictions against the pandemic.
- You can access a copy of the Landmine Monitor 2020 at this link. Or, you can directly download a copy here.
- Humanity & Inclusion’s advocacy & mine action experts available for interview
- The Ottawa Treaty bans the acquisition, production, stockpiling, trade and use of anti-personnel mines. The treaty was opened for signing on December 3, 1997 and entered into force on March 1, 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 United States of America is not a party to the Mine Ban Treaty.
- In January 2020, President Trump issued a new landmine policy, allowing for the use of landmines, as well as development of future mines.
- The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, of which Humanity & Inclusion is a member and current coordinator, has set out guidelines for the next U.S. President to reverse this policy, and to join the Mine Ban Treaty. The USCLB policy paper can be found here.
- The Landmine Monitor 2020 report measures the impact of the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines for the calendar year 2019, with information included up to October 2020 when possible.
About Humanity & Inclusion
Co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.
For the past 39 years, Humanity & Inclusion has been campaigning against anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs, with projects ranging from bomb clearance, risk education to teach civilians about the dangers of these weapons and victim assistance. The group's joint advocacy work led to the signing of the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention (1997) and the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008). Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and co-founder of the Cluster Munition Coalition.
Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.
"Six years ago, I stepped on a landmine in my vineyard," Hazrat explains. The young man was only 19 years old and was about to begin a day of work with his father and brother when a landmine devastated his life. On that day, he lost both of his legs.
Following this tragedy, his family preferred to leave their native village in Afghanistan, but decided to stay in the same district of Panjwai—a region where insecurity is widespread. There, they have very limited access to health services and a poor transport system. This is one of the reasons why in the last five years, Hazrat has not received any rehabilitation care—including the use of a wheelchair.
Gaining strength through rehabilitation care
Everything changed in 2019 when Hazrat met Humanity & Inclusion’s mobile emergency team. Since then, the young man has been regularly followed in his village, located nearly 50 miles from the Kandahar Physical Rehabilitation Center, which is run by Humanity & Inclusion. The mobile team goes directly to his home where they provide him with rehabilitation care, treatments, advice to compensate for his muscle weakness, as well as, psychosocial support.
A new, fitted wheelchair = independence
Hazrat is most excited about how much his life has changed since receiving his new wheelchair and learning how to use it. "Before, I couldn't move at all,” he continues. “My parents carried me from one place to another inside my home. I couldn't go outside and visit my neighbors and sisters. I am now in the position to do so. I am free and happier.”
Finding independence and success
"We were very worried about Hazrat and his future," his father says. "We came to consider him as a burden because he always needed someone to help him in every movement. He couldn't move alone and go to the bathroom or outdoors. He always had to be assisted by someone in the family. Now everything has really changed. We are less worried because he is independent and because he is also thinking again about his future. He's going to go to school to study and he can succeed!"
On January 31, the Trump Administration announced a roll-back of its landmine policy, effectively allowing the U.S. to resume the use of antipersonnel landmines—a weapon the U.S. hasn't used in decades, and one that's banned by 164 other countries.
We are devastated. Our executive director, Jeff Meer told the Associated Press that it's "a death sentence for civilians."
Demand the U.S. join the Mine Ban Treaty. Sign our petition NOW.
Since last November, Humanity & Inclusion’s mine action team has cleared more than 30,000 square meters of land—the equivalent of four football fields—in northern Chad. The team has identified and destroyed 114 landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
"We’re clearing land to promote development in northern Chad,” said Benjamin Westercamp, HI's head of mission in Chad. “Many areas are still contaminated by weapons left over from the conflict with Libya in the 1980s. This prevents the use of roads and the implementation of development projects. Our clearance work will help the region emerge from isolation.”
The objective is to release 1.5 million sq. meters of land—the equivalent of more than 200 football fields—that are contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war, a legacy of successive conflicts since the 1970s.
To help protect civilians, Humanity & Inclusive is educating local people about the risks posed unexploded ordnance around their communities. So far, they have reached 450 people.
In Faya-Largeau, Chad, Humanity & Inclusion has begun testing drones to detect landmines and build a detailed picture of what’s on the ground—a revolution in mine clearance. HI Project Manager Xavier Depreytere explains more.
“Our first tests took place in January in the desert south of Faya, an area heavily contaminated by explosives leftover from the conflict with Libya in the 1980s. The drones can scan areas in record time: 750 acres in two hours, which represents a huge time-saving for mine detection teams.
Equipped with a camera, the drone gives a detailed picture of what’s on the ground, along with a set of data such as GPS coordinates. During the initial tests, the drone took a photo of the terrain every two meters. When assembled, the photos provide a highly detailed map.
What is the optimal height for a drone? What type of drones should we use? What data is most useful to mine clearance experts? These are the sorts of questions we are asking in order to make the best use of this technology.”
International Meeting of Mine Action Experts
From February 5 to 7, mine clearance experts gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for the annual mine action meeting organized by the United Nations. HI attended to discuss innovative new mine clearance methods and to draw attention to the organization’s current testing program.
A key topic was also weapons clearance methods for improvised explosive devices (IEDs)—a major challenge in modern demining.
More images from our demining work in Chad:
Our drone operator prepares to send the drone over the desert landscape to see what's ahead
Anti-tank mines found by the team
Explosive devices buried in a hole before HI's demining team produced a controlled explosion
A controlled explosion of the weapons the team found
Download the report:
This brochure gives an overview of HI's history which is closely intertwined with the fight against armed violence, including the use of anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war. It provides an outline of our unique expertise in demining and land clearance, risk education, and victim assistance.Sign up
This baseline assessment was undertaken by Handicap International in October 2014 in all five governorates of Gaza. The focus of the survey was to collect baseline data related to the knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) contamination in communities impacted by the recent conflict.
The survey consisted of two parts: quantitative data collection comprising 459 individual questionnaires and qualitative data collection of 4 focus groups. The questionnaire targeted men, women, and children over 10 years old, while the focus groups targeted adults with disabilities, children, and adolescents. Quotas based on the age and gender in the five governorates sought to represent a proportionate cross-section of the population in impacted communities.
The survey showed that 45% of the overall population surveyed had received Risk Education (RE) messages in the past, with a lesser proportion of respondents in the governorates of North Gaza and Middle Area. The most common means of receiving the RE messages were through a school teacher, television, leaflets, radio, NGO worker, and posters.
Despite high levels of education in the population surveyed, significant gaps remain in knowledge of ERW. When asked which groups in these communities need more RE, the common response was young boys and girls. Regarding attitudes, most respondents are worried about ERW contamination and believe ERW should be reported to authorities. Overall, about half of respondents had seen ERW during or after the recent conflict. Gender was a key factor in this; males were much more likely to have reported seeing ERW than females. Of those that had seen ERW, 5% of respondents admitted to tampering with the ERW. Although 70% of the population were able to give the correct answer about how to report ERW (by dialing 100), only 29% of those that had seen ERW had actually reported it. Of those who had entered an area suspected to have ERW (28%), the most common reasons mentioned for doing so were curiosity, returning to collect items from a home that was damaged, farming, and visiting friends and family.
This baseline assessment shows the continued prevalence of high-risk attitudes and practices in Gaza, demonstrating a need for additional campaigns that deliver safety messages to the entire population. This report also highlights issues that could be improved and makes the following recommendations:
- Ensure that resources are allocated to make RE a priority for children
- Designate the entire front line of rubble removal and reconstruction as a target for RE and other support
- Prioritize RE to high-risk governorates
- Increase cooperation among RERE actors and standardize RE messages, monitoring, and evaluation
- Develop more inclusive Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials and RE activities
- Integrate RE across humanitarian and development interventions (with a focus on protection and health sectors)
- Ensure continued support is provided to clearance and victim assistance efforts
TO READ THE FULL REPORT, DOWNLOAD IT HERE:
Bombs under the rubble — Study of awareness of explosive remnants of war among the populations of Gaza (2015)Sign up
According to the NGO PAX, investments in cluster munitions have fallen from $31 billion to $9 billion in the past three years, reflective of a huge drop in support for the use of these internationally banned weapons.
Cluster munitions are bombs that opens mid-air to release hundreds of tiny bomblets that spread out over a wide area. Up to 40% fail to detonate on impact, and, much like landmines, cluster bombs remain “live” for decades. More than 90% of people killed by cluster munitions are non-combatants. However, several countries, including the U.S., continue to stock these indiscriminate weapons, and have yet to join the lifesaving treaty that bans them, the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The dramatic 350% drop in production of cluster munitions is largely due to the fact that U.S. manufactures, Textron and Orbital ATK, have decided not to produce them anymore. However, seven companies continue to produce cluster munitions. The PAX report named 88 financial institutions that continue to invest in these cluster-munition manufacturers.
"Governments are increasingly aware that the use of cluster munitions is unacceptable," says Anne Héry, Director of Advocacy at HI. “120 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but only 11 of them have made it clear to financial institutions that supporting investments in cluster munitions is illegal. More needs to be done. We must work to reduce the sources of funding for these weapons in order to eradicate them."
According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2018, published in August, cluster munitions were used in Syria and Yemen in 2017. In total, the Monitor recorded 289 new cluster munition casualties in 2017, including Syria and Yemen, and eight other countries where cluster munitions dropped during past conflicts have exploded.
Two decades ago, the adoption of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty marked an unprecedented diplomatic victory against these cowardly weapons. The treaty led to a fall in casualty numbers, the destruction of millions of mines, and a virtual end to their use. Since 2014, however, the use of mines has increased in many current conflicts, with a resulting rise in casualty numbers.Read more
In launching mine clearance operations earlier this year in Colombia, Handicap International teams conducted initial surveys to pinpoint hazardous areas throughout the country. Following the results, HI deployed a team of ten deminers to Venta, which is in the Cauca department, for a 45-day operation.Read more