Sarajevo Minefields

Countries with the greatest concentrations of land mines

By The Associated Press

An estimated 100 million anti-personnel mines are buried around the world, and the International Red Cross says they kill or wound 8000 people each year, 87 percent of them civilians. According to the United Nations (check out their voluntary trust fund on the right), these are the 10 countries with the most land mines still in place:

Expenditures and Commitments Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance
  1. Afghanistan - 9 million-10 million.
  2. Angola - 9 million.
  3. Iraq - 5 million-10 million.
  4. Kuwait - 5 million.
  5. Cambodia - 4 million-7 million.
  6. Western Sahara - 1 million-2 million.
  7. Mozambique - 1 million-2 million.
  8. Somalia - 1 million.
  9. Bosnia-Herzegovina - 3 million.
  10. Croatia - 2 million.

This year's (1997) Nobel Peace Prize was won by the International Campaign to Ban landmines (ICBL) and Jody Williams, the U.S. activists fighting for a world-wide landmines ban.

The rise to prominence of the landmines issue, particularly through the activity of the late Princess Diana, led to the U.N. campaign Landmines destroy life. The problem, of course, is in the member countries:

mines in DCUSA, the largest producer of (cheap) landmines, is also the home of the largest (very expensive) demining operations, although, of course, no landmines were ever deployed on the U.S. soil. The U.S. still opposes the worldwide landmines ban, arguing that landmines are necessary for the security of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. To its credit the U.S. has stopped producing it's dumb mines (the smart mines deactivate automatically after a certain time frame), though they have significant stockpiles (that have to be either sold or destroyed). Dumb mines production is taken over by China, a cherished U.S. trading partner. Former Yugoslavia was one of the most important exporters, producing 2 anti-personel mines which are considered the hardest to detect and destroy in the world (they were sold to Iraq which used them in Kuwait, so this is the opinion of the U.S. deminers - Askin & Goose, 1994), as well as the probably the best antitank mine, the TMRP 6, that can be deployed from a helicopter. Yugoslav Army had about 6 million landmines available for use before the war in Bosnia. With the present pace of mine clearing, it would take another 100 years to clear them all, according to the Landmine Survivors Rehabilitation Database. This pace may be sped up with the use of new technology of mine detection and destruction based on blimps.

As result, today Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo have to deal with a big land-mines problem. In Kosovo, UNICEF is distributing a landmines-awareness leaflet in Albanian to children. There were disturbing news from Croatia, tough, that the government ordered removal of all landmines warning signs before the summer tourist season '98 in order to make tourists feel more safe! Fortunately, the locals did the good job of warning tourists anyway, so nobody died. In Bosnia, you can check out MEDEX: a multi-ethnic Mine Awareness Camp for children 7-17 years of age located on Pavlovica mountain in Central Bosnia, run by a non-governmental organization from Novi Travnik.

But, isn't it absolutely humiliating that the same person who commanded the siege of Sarajevo is later put in charge of demining operations in Bosnia?

In Afghanistan, both the number of the landmines related injuries and the number of war related tools is so high that craftsmen hammer artficial feet (the Jaipur foot, cheap yet highly effective prosthesis - so far the best response to the global scourge of land mines) together out of spent artillery shells.

Swords to Ploughshares - Artillery Shells to Artificial Limbs!