On 8th December 2005, the UN General Assembly declared that 4th April each year should be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
Some 60 countries around the world are still contaminated by landmines and thousands of civilians continue to live with the daily threat of being injured or killed. These weapons indiscriminately target men, women and children. Victims of landmines are often deprived of their independence and, due to their economic and medical needs, risk marginalisation within their communities.
“Every twenty minutes in some part of the world, the macabre ritual is repeated: a mine explodes, another wounded, another mutilated, frequently another dead.”
Gino Strada, war surgeon and EMERGENCY founder
EMERGENCY AND LANDMINES
EMERGENCY first saw the effects of landmines and explosive weapons back in 1995, when the organisation decided to reactivate a hospital in Choman, a village in Iraqi Kurdistan near the border with Iran. Choman lay within an area infested by landmines, mostly of Italian production. One of the most common was the Valmara 69, a bounding fragmentation anti-personnel mine. In the Choman hospital, EMERGENCY staff were treating men, women and children who had stepped on mines while leading animals to pasture, fetching water, and playing.
Following these experiences, EMERGENCY led a successful campaign in Italy that resulted in the ban of the production and use of landmines. This campaign in Italy was part of a global network of organisations working for a world free of landmines.
Since this campaign, EMERGENCY has continued to provide healthcare to victims of landmines and explosive devices. Our hospitals have treated victims of landmines almost everywhere we have worked. EMERGENCY currently operates specialised projects in Iraq that aim to treat, rehabilitate and empower victims of landmines. Today, EMERGENCY UK is a proud partner of the APPG on Explosive Weapons, working together with parliamentarians and civil society organisations to combat the use of landmines.
In 1998, EMERGENCY opened a rehabilitation and Social Reintegration Centre in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, in order to provide assistance to the victims of landmines and explosive weapons. The Centre specialises in physiotherapy and in the production of prosthesis, orthotics, and orthopaedic devices for disabled and amputee patients. In order that those we have treated can live independently and with dignity, the centre facilitates their occupational reintegration through professional and vocational training in carpentry, woodwork, tailoring and shoe-making. Once the courses are over, EMERGENCY guarantees financial and management support for the establishment of small business cooperatives and handicraft workshops until complete autonomy is achieved.
As of December 2016, 557 people have completed vocational courses organised at the centre and 353 cooperatives have been formed with EMERGENCY’s support. By offering sustainable and durable solutions to marginalisation and social exclusion, this project promotes self-sufficiency and empowerment for those recovering from injuries caused by landmines.
“My name is Mohammed and I live in Zarayan. In 1992 I was injured in a landmine explosion and I lost a leg. I have a family and seven children. Initially, it was very difficult for me to support my family. After a few years, we heard that an organisation called EMERGENCY was providing care to people with disabilities and they were offering the opportunity to learn a new job. I took the course to become a blacksmith and after completing it I opened my own shop. I am now able to support my family with my business and I am very happy because I don’t feel disabled anymore. I will always be thankful to EMERGENCY. With their support, I was born again.”
This International Mine Awareness Day, EMERGENCY reaffirms its commitment to treating the victims of these inhumane and indiscriminate weapons and will continue advocating for a world free of landmines.