110 million landmines planted in times of conflict remain in place, like a secret terrorism, in 67 mainly poor countries. The landmine has been called the poor man’s bomb. So also are the machete, pistol, AK-47, knife, and small explosive devices the weapons of poor men. We have only to think of Rwanda, *Sudan, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to realize that weapons of any scale and complexity can result in genocide, crimes against humanity, the radical breakdown of society, and violation of international law on war. In the Rwandan conflict 10,000 people were killed per day for months – with machete and rifle -- constituting the swiftest rate of genocidal slaughter in modern history.
The sadistic sexual torture of women and girls in these conflicts and the theft of children for use in combat are unparalleled in recent warfare. War -- from nuclear, to fire and explosive bombing, to hand weapons, to military rape – may vary in scale; but all forms of war – rich man’s and poor man’s alike -- are unequivocal acts of man’s inhumanity to men, women and children victims.
*The BBC published drawings of children caught in the conflict in Darfur. The drawings were collected by a human rights group, Waging Peace, and are being used as evidence in the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity committed in civil conflict in Darfur.
See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/7923247.stm for more drawings.
Naturally curious, children are likely to pick up strange objects, such as the infamous toy-like 'butterfly' mines that Soviet forces spread by the millions in Afghanistan.
Green Parrots: A War Surgeon’s Diary by Gino Strada, 2004 CHARTA
The author, an Italian surgeon, co-founded Emergency in 1994 to provide medical and surgical assistance to war victims, particularly victims of anti-personnel mines by setting up and managing hospitals in hardest hit areas. By 2004 Emergency had operated upon more than 1 million victims of war and had established permanent surgical centers, rehab centers, health centers and hospitals in a number of countries. In more than 10 years of war zone surgery in the Middle East, Balkans, Asia, Africa and Latin America, the medical staff of Emergency found that greater than 90% of the war casualties were civilian victims and 1 in 3 were children.
The book takes its title from Russian green parrot mines which were designed to hover, fly and spread over wider territory and which need to be handled to explode. Dr. Strada has seen only children injured by the green parrot mines (from handling out of curiosity).
In war theaters of poor countries, there are no doctors and medicines. “…[T]he little that is available is reserved exclusively for the military and the combatants.” In Ethiopia blood was reserved for soldiers and not available for civilian casualties. In Angola, “a well-equipped rehab center treated only former fighters not civilian casualties.” So Emergency set up their medical operations in a bombed out hospital. Here Angolan women gave birth lying on cardboard and stinking blankets.
The author warns of a pattern emerging in recent wars (Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan): Humanitarian aid (like journalists) is embedded in military action. Thus, humanitarian organizations become military agents in NGO trapping, resulting in less humanitarian aid available.
DISARM spans a dozen countries to look at how, despite a global ban, millions of antipersonnel mines continue to claim victims daily in countries around the world.
Co-directed by Mary Wareham, a leader of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), and photojournalist Brian Liu, DISARM features striking footage smuggled out of the isolated nation of Burma, scenes from a war-ravaged community in Colombia, footage from minefields in Iraq, and exclusive scenes shot by Afghan and Bosnian de-miners.
Antipersonnel mines inflict destruction upon civilian populations for decades after the initial conflict has ended. Despite thousands of casualties a year, mines continue to be used and stockpiled by governments and rebel groups. DISARM juxtaposes government and public opinion, that of Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, diplomats, mine victims, de-miners, soldiers, and aid workers, to explore the issues that both hinder and further the case against antipersonnel mines.
Every 20 minutes a landmine detonates: 50-100 grams of TNT explode into the foot and leg and other parts of body. In Cambodia, 1 in 230 people has lost a leg or more to landmines.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a global network in over 70 countries that works for a world free of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions, where landmine and cluster munition survivors can lead fulfilling lives.
The Campaign was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its efforts to bring about the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Since then, ICBL has been advocating for the words of the treaty to become a reality, demonstrating on a daily basis that civil society has the power to change the world.
As a member of the Cluster Munitions Coalition the ICBL is engaged in the global effort to ban cluster munitions and to address their humanitarian impact.
The ICBL website offers comprehensive information on landmines and cluster munitions, the Mine Ban Treaty (1997) and Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008) as well as states which are signatories and those which have not yet signed. Most valuable for educators and activists are:
Unique Impact on Women of Landmines, Landmine Clearance, and Rehabilitation from Landmine Injuries
Women and children are casualties of landmines in agrarian and subsistence-farming societies where landmines were deliberately placed in agricultural fields and along routes to water sources and markets to starve a people by killing its farmers. In Bajaur, Pakistan, thousands of landmines were scattered on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border by the Soviet military during their war against Afghanistan. Women and girls constitute almost 35 percent of mine victims there, injured while fetching fodder for animals, crossing agricultural fields, and carrying out their daily activities. Yet mine awareness sessions in the conservative tribal society are provided in mosques and schools to men and boys who are then relied upon to educate women and girls at home. (1)
The International Commission to Ban Landmines estimates that 234,000 of the 300,000 landmine survivors need continuous support for healthcare and to regain the capacity for life-sustaining income and participation in their community. A vast network of non-governmental organizations working with affected states has enabled mine clearing to evolve from a military clearance activity to a humanitarian and developmental initiative. (2) Even so, the plight of women amputees is particularly serious. Women are a larger percent of farmers than men in Asia and Africa, responsible for up to 80 percent of food produced in many parts of Africa. When maimed, they lose the ability to farm and feed their family; and their husbands often abandon them, leaving them to beg on the streets. (3) Nearly one-half of land in Cambodia, where one of every 230 people is an amputee due to landmine injury, is unsafe for cultivation and human use. So as the recovery from war continues, it is likely that an even greater percent of those injured and killed by landmines will be women and children as they return to peacetime sustenance activities, collecting firewood and water, tending animals, and farming. (3)
While women and girls are extremely vulnerable to landmines in war-torn agrarian societies, little documentation exists on their impact—by injury and death, by loss of income and community, by victim assistance, and by participation in the mine action program. The following issues must be answered in order to design programs that educate, support, and assist women and girls at risk. Do injured women and girls receive immediate and equitable medical assistance and prostheses? What are the social and economic supports for landmine-injured women? Are women the primary caretakers of amputees and others injured; do they receive adequate assistance, given their other household responsibilities; and who cares for the caretakers when they are injured? Are women and girls equally educated with men and boys in landmine awareness and equally trained in de-mining methods? (United Nations, 2001)*
* See: United Nations. (2001). Gender perspectives on Landmines, Briefing Note 5: Department for Disarmament Affairs, Department of Peacekeeping Operations - Mine Action Service in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women. http://disarmament.un.org/gender.htm.
1. Fayyaz, Faiz Muhammed. (2003). Pakistan: the landmine problem in federally administered tribal areas. Journal of Mine Action, 5.1 http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/5.1. Accessed Nov. 10, 2003.
2. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. (2002). Toward a mine-free world: Human Rights Watch. http://www.icbl.org.
3. Ashford, Mary-Wynne & Huet-Vaughn, Yolanda. (2000). The impact of war women. In Barry S. Levy & Victor W. Sidel (Eds.), War and public health (pp. 186-196). Washington, D.C.: American Public Health Association.