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The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) and Burma’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement reiterated their goal of spending $5.9 million this year on landmine risk education, victims’ assistance, capacity-building and other related projects as a ceremony was held yesterday to mark International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
The interim director general of the ministry, San San Aye, said the funds — mainly covering initiatives across Kachin, Shan and Karen states, and Tennessarim Division, which are home to more than 100,000 affected people — would come from international donors.
Over the past two years, 298 people were killed or injured by landmines in Burma, he said. Out of that total, one in three victims was a child and one in four was killed.
“The toll of landmines on individuals is extremely high. In addition to the psychological impact and daily difficulties associated with lifelong disability, the cost is enormous, Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF’s representative to Burma, was quoted as saying in a press release on International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. “A child losing her/his leg at the age of 4 will need 50 prosthesis in the course of his/her life.”
“We must do everything to reduce exposure to landmines and explosive remnants of war, and provide necessary and long-term support services to survivors,” he added.
Officials from government and UNICEF held Tuesday’s ceremony at Minglathiri Hotel in Naypyidaw. At a separate same-day event in Karen State, one of the regions worst-affected by landmines, the speaker of the state legislature, Saw Chit Khin, said more needed to be done to remove the barriers to economic and social development faced by local populations in areas plagued by landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
Speaking in the state capital Hpa-an, Saw Chit Khin highlighted the everyday dangers for many civilians in the country’s border regions.
“Landmines and unexploded ordnance from war are threatening the people’s security, health and safety,” he said.
Landmine awareness training was conducted in Karen State from 22-25 August last year, with 65 officials from several government departments joining in, he said.
The Karen State government is currently supporting 69 surviving landmine victims and a new centre for landmine survivors will be opened in Thandaunggyi on 10 April. The deputy director of Karen State’s social services office, Zaw Min, said 363 survivors of landmines will receive assistance at the centre.
The Geneva-based Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, a project that tracks the landmine scourge globally, said that from 1999 through 2015, there were 3,693 recorded casualties of landmines and other explosive remnants of war in Burma. Out of that, 419 were killed and 3,156 were injured, with 118 cases’ outcomes unknown.
Reporting by Aung Ko Ko Latt, Ye Min Khaung and Andrew D. Kaspar.