April 4 marks the annual United Nations International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
The event brings awareness to the continued efforts by States, with the assistance of the United Nations and relevant organizations, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.
Mine action is humanitarian action because mine action saves lives. Mine action ensures that landmines and explosive hazards in war-torn areas are found and destroyed, making possible the delivery of humanitarian assistance — so that people and supplies reach those most in need.
“Not long ago, nearly 10,000 men, women, and children died or were injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance every year,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. “Today, as we observe UN International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, we can take pride in the fact that U.S. support for conventional weapons destruction programs and our commitment to robust international partnerships are making a difference. Due in part to these efforts, we have seen a nearly 60 percent decrease in landmine injuries. But the right number of these incidents is zero.”
The United States has provided more than $2.5 billion in assistance in more than 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs since 1993. These funds provide the expertise and equipment to safely clear landmines and other unexploded ordnance, support programs which assist landmine accident survivors, and destroy excess weapons and ammunition preventing them from falling into the wrong hands.
“We remain committed to doing more to reduce the impact of landmines, as reflected by our increased funding this year for Laos, and our leadership in the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia,” remarked Secretary Kerry. “Innocent people – including children – remain at risk from landmines in more than 60 countries around the world. It is way past time for the international community to decrease that risk, to help ensure they can walk in safety. On this day of awareness, we call on other nations to join us in these efforts around the world.”