Why Victim Assistance under the Mine Ban Treaty is about more than Landmines

In addition to the fact that the Mine Ban Treaty was negotiated outside of traditional arms treaty channels, one of its signal achievements is the recognition for the impact of landmines on its victims.  The Mine Ban Treaty is the first arms treaty to specifically provide for the victims of the weapon being banned.  In clause 6.3, the Treaty states, “Each State Party in a position to do so shall provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration, of mine victims and for mine awareness programs” (Mine Ban Treaty).  The Treaty did not specifically define who constitutes a “mine victim” at the time of its drafting.  In 2004, at the first review conference, the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty defined mine victims as “those who, either individually or collectively, have suffered physical, emotional and psychological injury, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through acts or omissions related to mine utilization” (ICBL).  This expansive definition deliberated included not just those individuals injured or killed by mines, but also their families and all persons living in communities affected by landmines.  Thus, victim assistance has come to be seen as benefitting a larger population than just the survivors of landmine accidents.

Another definition that was expanded after the Treaty’s signing was the exact meaning of “assistance” for landmine victims.  The States Parties agreed that a comprehensive victim assistance program would have six components which are as follows:

  • Data collection and information management to understand the extent of the challenge faced;
  • Emergency and continuing medical care;
  • Physical rehabilitation, including physiotherapy, prosthetics and assistive devices;
  • Psychological support and social reintegration;
  • Economic reintegration;  and
  • The establishment, enforcement and implementation of relevant laws and public policies.

Further, the States Parties declared that 26 countries (VA26) have a significant number of landmine victims and therefore the greatest burden to provide for the needs of these victims.  The countries have been tasked with producing comprehensive plans for addressing the needs of landmine victims and the progress towards achieving those plans has been monitored annually at the Meetings of the States Parties.  These 26 countries (with African States in bold) are:  Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Croatia,  Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Jordan, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, Senegal, Serbia, Sudan (including what is now South Sudan), Tajikistan, Thailand, Uganda and Yemen (AP Mine Ban Convention).

 

 Non-Landmine Injuries as Examples of Victim Assistance

The six components of victim assistance listed above, if properly implemented and widely available will benefit many more people than those immediately injured by landmines.  Consider this, in 2004, Army Reserve helicopter pilot, Tammy Duckworth, was shot down in Iraq losing both of her legs in the crash. The rocket-propelled grenade that hit the helicopter also “almost completely destroyed her right arm, breaking it in three places and tearing tissue from the back side of it.”  Her rehabilitation and continuing surgical care took place at Walter Reed Naval Medical Center where she was fitted with prosthetics and re-learned to walk.  In 2009, Duckworth was appointed Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs, a position she resigned in 2011 to run for Congress from her home state of Illinois (Wikipedia).

Another example: in October 2009, United States soccer player Charlie Davies was injured in a car accident that took the life of another passenger.  His injuries, treatment and prognosis were described as follows:

“Davies, 23, underwent more than five hours of surgery at Washington Hospital Center after being airlifted there by helicopter. He was listed in ‘serious but stable’ condition Tuesday after treatment for a lacerated bladder, fractures to the tibia and femur bones in his right leg, facial fractures and a left elbow fracture.

Dan Kalbac, a U.S. Soccer team doctor, said ‘injuries of this nature usually require a recovery period of six to 12 months and extensive rehabilitation.’

… A statement released by U.S. Soccer said Davies ‘will be hospitalized for at least a week and additional surgeries will be required to stabilize his left elbow fracture and possibly the facial fractures’” (Los Angeles Times).

Less than 18 months later, Davies scored two goals in his first appearance for the Washington soccer club, DC United, as part of his comeback and recovery from the accident and his injuries (Washington Post).

While these are extreme examples, the elements victim assistance are there.  Emergency medical care (in Washington for Davies, in Iraq and Germany for Duckworth), physical rehabilitation (Duckworth’s prosthetics, Davies’s training and rehabilitation), psychological support (Davies was seeing a therapist throughout the 2011 season), economic opportunities after the injury, social re-integration, and enforcement of laws with the driver of the car spending time in prison for the death of the other passenger in the car at the time of the crash (Ashley J. Roberta, whose name was never brought up enough as the true victim of this accident). 

Duckworth’s injuries and recovery more closely mirror those of landmine victims, but the processes and services required for Duckworth’s care are the same that allowed Davies to return to the soccer field.  If the services and care required for landmine victims were available in mine-affected countries, their benefits would be available to a much larger population, specifically to victims of car accidents, like Davies.

 

Car Accident Victims: A Population in Need of Comprehensive Victim Assistance

Car accidents are the tenth-leading cause of death globally.  Among persons aged 15-29, car accidents are the leading cause of death and an estimated 20 to 50 million non-fatal injuries are caused every year by car accidents.  According to some estimates, 13% of those non-fatal injuries lead to permanent disabilities.  In 2007, in the ten African states that are members of the VA26, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that almost 97,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2007, over 29,000 in Ethiopia alone.  In these countries, roughly 35 people out of every 100,000 were killed in car accidents compared to a global rate of 18.8 out of every 100,000 (WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2009). 

In comparison, in those ten African countries, less than 600 persons were reported killed or injured by landmines, a rate of 0.44 persons per 100,000 (The Monitor), or one person for every 80 people killed in a traffic accident, not even counting injuries from traffic accidents.  I say this not to minimize the impact of landmines but to emphasize the impact of traffic accidents and demonstrate the possible population in need of the care and services mandated for landmine victims.

The response to the public health crisis that is car accidents has been prevention.  Below is a photo I took in India encouraging safe driving.  Other measures include safety features in cars and vehicles like seatbelts and helmets and reduced speed limits.

The public health approach is an excellent preventive measure, but we are focusing on what actually happens after an accident.  Note the use of a prosthetic foot as a caution, an interesting link to landmine injuries and an important element in post-accident care. 

If, every year, there are millions of persons injured in car accidents, the demand for rehabilitation services and emergency care is enormous.  By providing the Mine Ban Treaty-mandated victim assistance services, all countries, but especially those most mine-affected, will be able to provide the necessary car and treatment for not just landmine survivors, but also the victims of traffic accidents. 

 

Michael P. Moore, April 26, 2012

Advertisements

The Inhumane Weapons Convention Takes Another look at Anti-Vehicle Mines

Before the Mine Ban Treaty, there was the Inhumane Weapons Convention (IWC) also known as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) or by its full name, the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.  The Mine Ban Treaty is, in fact, the result of the IWC’s failure to adequately address the humanitarian impact of anti-personnel landmines in the IWC’s Amended Protocol II, “Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices As Amended on 3 May 1996.”  Unlike the Mine Ban Treaty, however, the United States, Russia and China are all parties to the IWC and all of its five protocols covering weapons whose fragments are undetectable by X-rays (and therefore difficult, if not impossible to remove surgically), landmines and booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding lasers, and explosive remnants of war generally.  For activists and campaigners, the IWC has never been strong enough to adequately restrict the behavior of states, hence the Mine Ban Treaty and the later Convention on Cluster Munitions which was a response to inadequacies perceived in IWC’s Protocol V covering explosive remnants of war.

However, the Inhumane Weapons Convention remains an important treaty and in 2011, the Fourth Review Conference of High Contracting Parties called for renewed discussion about restrictions on anti-vehicle mines or “mines other than anti-personnel mines” (MOTAPM) which are covered (in theory) by Protocols II and V.  Anti-vehicle mines were deliberately not covered by the Mine Ban Treaty because consensus at the time held that the military utility of anti-vehicle mines, specifically anti-tank mines, outweighed the potential humanitarian impacts, whilst the humanitarian impact of anti-personnel mines was accepted to be greater than their military utility.  After Protocol V was negotiated in 2002 and 2003, anti-vehicle mines were subject to discussion by the parties to the IWC, but those discussions were suspended in 2006 when it was clear no consensus could be reached by the parties.  The Fourth Review Conference re-started the discussions by calling for a group of experts to discuss the humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines and ways to minimize that impact.

The position on anti-vehicle mines appears to be changing.  With fewer states having access to anti-personnel mines through export bans by producers and outright bans by parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, anti-vehicle mines are being used by states and non-state actors and the humanitarian impact of AVMs is becoming clearer.  Put another way, when anti-personnel mines are banned, armies and armed groups will use anti-vehicle mines for the same purposes with devastating impact.  In 2011 and 2012, anti-vehicle mines have been used in Libya, Sudan and South Sudan to close roads and affect trade. 

 

Background Materials

The meeting of experts opened with a review of international humanitarian law by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  Anti-vehicle mines are victim-activated and “most AV mines cannot distinguish if the vehicle is of a civilian or military character.”  Anti-vehicle mines lead to the “long-term denial of assistance to vulnerable populations of food, water and medical assistance due to blocked transport routes. In many contexts today, AV mines obstruct the efforts of aid agencies to bring relief to war-affected communities.”  These impacts do not serve any immediate military utility.  Also, options to reduce the humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines, for example, self-deactivation or neutralization functions, are often not used; this is especially the case with air-delivered anti-vehicle mines whose usage is prohibited “to the extent feasible” without such precautions by Protocol II of the IWC.  The ICRC also encouraged the meeting to considerable steps to increase the detectability of anti-vehicle mines to facilitate their clearance after the conclusion of hostilities (United Nations, pdf).

The United Nations Mine Action Team (UNMAT) in their opening statement, focused on the humanitarian impact on anti-vehicle mines.  Pointing out the anti-vehicle mine “cannot distinguish between a tank or a school bus,” UNMAT also noted that unlike victims of anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions or explosive remnants of war, the rights of victims of anti-vehicle mines are not protected by any treaties and there is no international mandate to address their needs.  UNMAT called on the experts “to address the ongoing concerns at the humanitarian suffering caused by MOTAPM and to prevent the indiscriminate effects on civilians, including by limiting the active life of these mines, making them detectable through commonly available metal detectors, banning the use of anti-handling devices or sensitive fuses, and by ensuring that the needs and rights of all victims are adequately addressed” (United Nations, pdf).

The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) prepared an issue brief on anti-vehicle mines as a background document for the meeting’s participants.  GICHD noted that in 2010, there were at least 375 casualties attributable to anti-vehicle mines (compared to 1,275 from anti-personnel mines).  Also, because anti-vehicle mines are larger and contain significantly more explosive force than anti-personnel mines (APMs), “AVMs are likely to cause multiple deaths and injuries in one incident. Data… indicates a clear tendency of higher casualty ratio among demining personnel resulting from AVM accidents than from APM accidents. The average number of victims per AVM incident is more than twice the average number of victims per APM incident. The maximum number per incident has reached more than ten casualties in the case of AVM detonation.”  In addition to immediate impacts of anti-vehicle mine accidents, the presence (or even just the rumor) of anti-vehicle mines impacts post conflict reconstruction and recovery. “AVMs can trap populations in destitution, denying them the opportunity to develop. AVMs can also block the return of refugees and IDPs to their places of origin. AVMs raise the cost of implementing humanitarian projects” (United Nations, pdf).

 

Statements made by the United States

The United States delegation, in their opening statement, described a “humanitarian threat created by the presence of persistent and non-detectable anti-vehicle mines, in particular in Africa, where the use of MOTAPM has prevented access to land and infrastructure.”  The US acknowledged “room for specific restrictions on the use of MOTAPM” and declared itself willing “to find a way to move forward in addressing the humanitarian problem caused by the indiscriminate and irresponsible use of MOTAPM” (United Nations, pdf).

In a second statement, the United States delegation reaffirmed the position that “AVM have a clear military utility” and described that utility and how the US military uses anti-vehicle mines for force multiplication and area denial.  But the US also acknowledged the “humanitarian problem caused by the indiscriminate use of persistent landmines” (emphasis mine).  The US delegation declared that the “US has removed all persistent anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines from the active inventory;” that the US has “removed non-detectable, plastic anti-vehicle mines from its active inventory;” and that “the United States has destroyed 1.7 M of 2.6M persistent anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines. The remaining [persistent] mines will be destroyed through our normal conventional ammunition demilitarization process.” 

If there is an anti-vehicle mine protocol developed under the IWC, I would expect it to conform to the requirements described for the US active mine inventory.  According to the US delegation, all “mines remaining in the active inventory have a highly reliable, self-destruct mechanism with a self-deactivation back-up that prevent the munitions from becoming persistent hazards;” and the “United States will not transfer any AVM that does not have a self-destruct or self-deactivation device.”  This means that the mines exported by the US will not necessarily meet the same standard for mines used by the US military which must have both the self-destruct and self-deactivation features.  For the mines that do remain in the US inventory, all “self destruct mines are detectable with a commonly-available mine detector” (United Nations, pdf).   

 

Outcomes

Unfortunately, the advance report available does not describe the actual outcomes of the meeting.  The completed text of the report on the meeting’s outcomes is as follows:

“In its final session on ‘The Way Forward’ delegations discussed the potential for future work on mines other than anti-personnel mines.”

The formal outcomes will be submitted as a report to the 2012 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the IWC which will meet in November in Geneva (United Nations, pdf).  Again, my assumption would be that any protocol would match the US’s requirements for its own inventory which are:

  • Mines must have a reliable self-destruct mechanism; and
  • Mines must be detectable by a commonly-available mine detector.

I’m not sure the needs and rights of victims of anti-vehicle mines would be addressed to any greater degree than they are in Protocol V which declares in Article 8.2:

“Each High Contracting Party in a position to do so shall provide assistance for the care and rehabilitation and social and economic reintegration of victims of explosive remnants of war. Such assistance may be provided inter alia through the United Nations system, relevant international, regional or national organizations or institutions, the International Committee of the Red Cross, national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and their International Federation, non-governmental organizations, or on a bilateral basis” (Inhumane Weapons Convention, Protocol V, pdf).

This is a lower standard for protection and assistance than was negotiated in the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), but is almost verbatim to what is in the Mine Ban Treaty.  At the minimum, the language from Protocol V should be in any new protocol, but better language would be that from Article 5, “Victim Assistance,” from the CCM which is as follows:

1. Each State Party with respect to cluster munition victims in areas under its jurisdiction or control shall, in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law, adequately provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion. Each State Party shall make every effort to collect reliable relevant data with respect to cluster munition victims.

2. In fulfilling its obligations under paragraph 1 of this Article each State Party shall:

a.      Assess the needs of cluster munition victims;

b.      Develop, implement and enforce any necessary national laws and policies;

c.       Develop a national plan and budget, including timeframes to carry out these activities, with a view to incorporating them within the existing national disability, development and human rights frameworks and mechanisms, while respecting the specific role and contribution of relevant actors;

d.      Take steps to mobilise national and international resources;

e.       Not discriminate against or among cluster munition victims, or between cluster munition victims and those who have suffered injuries or disabilities from other causes; differences in treatment should be based only on medical, rehabilitative, psychological or socio-economic needs;

f.        Closely consult with and actively involve cluster munition victims and their representative organisations;

g.      Designate a focal point within the government for coordination of matters relating to the implementation of this Article; and

h.      Strive to incorporate relevant guidelines and good practices including in the areas of medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as social and economic inclusion (Convention on Cluster Munitions, pdf).

So, keep an eye on negotiations and hopefully a fully, more detailed report of the outcomes of this meeting of experts will be available before the November meeting in Geneva.

Michael P. Moore, April 13, 2012


The Month in Mines, March 2012, by Landmines in Africa

March 1, 2012 represented the 13th anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty.   The mine action community celebrated this event by launching the “Lend Your Leg” campaign and video (YouTube) that concluded on April 4th, the International Mine Action and Awareness Day (Voice of America).  As with every month, March 2012 brought good news and bad from across the continent.  Of especial importance is the accusation against a State Party – Sudan – of usage of anti-personnel landmines.

Angola

Angola announced clearance figures for demining in 2010 and 2011, covering an area equal to half a million football fields (soccer fields for those in the United States) and destroying almost half a million landmines in the process.  Unfortunately, 77 people were killed or injured by landmines in 2011 serving as an urgent reminder of the necessity for continued clearance and mine risk education activities (All Africa).  Angola has prioritized its demining activities to enable economic development activities so special focus has been made in and around the KwaZulu Transboundary Peace Park with clearance activities taking place along the border with Namibia (All Africa; All Africa; Angola Press Agency).   Angola continues to expand it mine detection capabilities by training (All Africa) and a successful victim assistance program has been expanded for 2012 (All Africa).

Despite these positive strides, the sheer scale of landmine contamination in Angola means that the country will require additional time to meet its Treaty-mandated obligation to clear all territory of landmines.  At the end of the month, Angola submitted a formal request to extend its Article 5 demining deadline by five years to accommodate on-going survey activities and to allow for continued clearance activities.  The request does not come as a surprise as Angola’s mine action authorities had discussed the request with Landmine Monitor researchers in 2011.  The request will be reviewed and deliberated upon the next Meeting of States Parties to Mine Ban Treaty which will convene in Geneva, Switzerland in December 2012 (All Africa; The Monitor).

 

Argentina

Recognizing that we’ve switched continents briefly, March 2012 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Falklands War between Argentina and Great Britain and the responsibility for clearing of the minefields laid during that conflict remains a point of contention between the two countries.  However, a crew of Zimbabweans working for BACTEC has cleared almost 4 million square meters of land in the Falklands.  Pity these highly skilled deminers could not be employed to clear minefields in their own country (Penguin News).

 

Democratic Republic of Congo

The explosion of a massive weapons depot in Brazzaville highlighted the dangers of unexploded ordnance in populated areas and launched new efforts in the Republic of Congo to eliminate arms depots and inform the public of the dangers of unexploded and abandoned ordnance.  Almost a thousand kilometers away, in the war-ravaged eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the slow work of clearing minefields continues while the lingering impacts of landmines hampers development.  Eight of DRC’s provinces are affected by landmines and the presence of those mines prevents farmers from being able to sell their produce in markets and reduce the dependency of the population on food assistance.  The World Food Programme has launched a micro-credit scheme in Katanga Province in southeastern DRC, but the price of food due to the high cost of transport across mined roads means that the benefits of micro-credit are lost.  Of course, recent budget issues have meant that one of the demining agencies active in the region, Danish Church Aid, has had to withdraw and stop working (All Africa).

In Kisangani, to the north of Katanga, continued support by the Japanese government has allowed mine clearance to continue and 4.2 square kilometers of previously mined land have been returned to the local villages.  More than 12,000 people will be able to return to their homes engage in agriculture and other activities.  The Japanese embassy has committed to continued support of demining elsewhere in eastern DRC (UNMAS, pdf).

 

Libya

Human Rights Watch reported that Libya’s Transitional National Council government has started the process of destroying the stockpiles of landmines maintained by the Gaddhafi regime.  Since mid-February, more than two tons of mines have been destroyed by the Libyan Army Corps of Engineers with the assistance of the Swiss Foundation for Demining (FSD), the majority of which were anti-personnel mines (All Africa).

The US State Department is a major sponsor for demining and stockpile destruction in Libya, supporting the work of FSD and Mines Advisory Group to clear mines and performing mine risk education.  The work is expected to continue for at least two more years (State Department).  The International Committee of the Red Cross is also conducting mine risk education (MRE) in Libya and a major target for are the “street museums” created by Libyans to demonstrate the crimes of the Gaddhafi regime.  These museums will display active landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance in public areas where they can explode and kill or injure the persons who have created the museums or the people who have come to bear witness (ICRC).  A missing component in the current mine action portfolio in Libya is victim assistance. The focus on stockpile destruction, mine risk awareness and demining is admirable, but much more needs to be done for the victims and for future victims.

 

Nigeria

A bomb that had been dropped during the Biafra war in the late 1960s exploded in the city of Enugu.  This prompted the leader of the Ministry of Defence’s Humanitarian Deminers group to announce that several other bombs, including “conventional and locally made landmines” still posed a threat to the safety of Nigerians in war-affected areas of the country (All Africa).  This statement challenges the claim made by the Nigerian government that the country is free of known landmine contamination and should be followed up by the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.

 

Sudan and South Sudan

A British charity has accused Sudan of using banned anti-personnel landmines against rebels in the southeastern region of the country.  Dr. Mukesh Kapila, in his capacity as an advisor to the AEGIS Trust, reported the use of anti-personnel landmines by Sudanese Army members.  AEGIS Trust’s area of expertise in anti-genocide campaigning and has been investigating possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Nuba and Mukesh made the deliberate comparison between Darfur and Nuba.  According to one report, Mukesh said, “Khartoum had been using anti personal (sic) landmine in schools and churches” (All Africa) and in another report quotes Mukesh, “I also saw the anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs that had been used in places where women and children go fetch water and firewood” (All Africa).  Sudan has signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty and any use of anti-personnel landmines would represent a clear violation of Sudan’s responsibilities as a Party to the Treaty. 

A spokesperson for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the rebel group fighting Khartoum in the Nuba Mountains, echoed Mukesh’s accusation and blames Iran for supplying Khartoum’s forces with the banned anti-personnel landmines.  The spokesperson said, “The use of Iranian made… personnel landmines… prove beyond a doubt that the [Sudanese] government plan and strategy aim to continue its policies of genocide, ethnic cleansing against the Nuba population” (All Africa).  The accusation against Iran also comes just as Iran host an international meeting on demining techniques and claims to adhere to all international demining treaties, despite not signing any (FARS News Agency).

Small Arms Survey published a report on anti-tank and anti-personnel mines that had been used by rebels in South Sudan. Most of the mines were Russian and Chinese-made anti-tank mines, however, the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), a faction allied with Khartoum, was in possession of anti-personnel mines in Unity state and the South Sudan Democratic Army, also allied with Khartoum, also had anti-personnel mines (Small Arms Survey, pdf).  Neither Sudan nor South Sudan should possess anti-personnel mines because Sudan was required to destroy its stockpile of anti-personnel mines by April 1, 2008, a deadline that was met long before the countries split, so the origin of these mines is a mystery that needs to be solved.  If rebels in South Sudan are able to obtain anti-personnel mines, either from Khartoum or elsewhere, that’s a violation of non-export and non-transfer provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty.

On the positive side, the demining company MECHEM has been able to clear the mines laid by the SSLA on one of the major roads in Unity state, allowing travel by humanitarian actors.  MECHEM continues to demine roads in Unity state to further ease delivery of food and humanitarian assistance (UNMAS, pdf).

 

Western Sahara

The United Nations envoy for Western Sahara met with officials from Morocco, the POLISARIO Front representing the Saharawi people, Algeria and Mauritania in March to discuss, among other topics, demining along the berm which divides the disputed territory.  Demining the berm is vital to allow free movement of people, animals and wildlife through the region.  These talks will be followed by a visit from the envoy to the region in May (All Africa).

 

Somalia

The conflict in southern Somalia between Al Shabab and the loosely allied forces of Kenya, Ethiopia, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) appears to be spreading from the south of the country towards the autonomous state of Puntland.  In March, landmine blasts in Puntland marked the start of fighting between Puntland’s security forces and rebels allied to Al Shabab (All Africa; All Africa).  Until recently, Puntland had managed to avoid most of the conflict in Somalia, but with Al Shabab being driven from its bases in Mogadishu and Baidoa, the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist force will be looking for new safe havens.  In the meantime, Al Shabab has threatened to increase landmine and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against the forces it is fighting elsewhere.  Al Shabab’s explosives were reported in Baidoa (All Africa), Beledweyne (All Africa), the airport in Hudur (All Africa), and Gedo (All Africa) demonstrating Al Shabab’s ability to harass and injure military and civilian targets.  These attacks will also prevent the safe return of refugees currently in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

 

Egypt

As many as 20% of the world’s landmines may remain in the ground in Egypt, representing a colossal demining challenge.  Researchers at the Egyptian government research facility, the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology are exploring alternative techniques for disarming and defusing the extant landmines.  One of the most recent ideas is to use a combination of plants and bacteria to locate, access and neutralize the landmines.  First, a genetically engineered mustard plant will be planted by air across suspected mine fields.  The mustard plant flowers a specific color in the presence of explosive materials.  Then iron-eating bacteria will be introduced to the identified minefields to expose the explosive nitrogen products in the mine.  Lastly, sugar beets (yes, you read that right) or tobacco will be planted (again by air) in the minefields.  Beets and tobacco require enormous amounts of nitrogen and would absorb the nitrogen in the landmines, rendering the explosive material inert.  The system makes sense in a Wile E. Coyote sort of way, and would represent the first time that tobacco products would actually save lives (Cutting Edge News).

Michael P. Moore, April 5, 2012


This Frisbee Clears Landmines Tournament, Wednesday July 4th, Washington, DC

Every year, thousands of men, women and children are killed or injured by landmines in dozens of countries around the world.  The only way to ensure that these injuries and accidents stop is to completely remove all landmines from the ground, an expensive and time-consuming process.  Well, we’re going to help get a few more landmines out of the ground and hopefully have a little fun doing it.

In honor of International Mine Action and Awareness day, I’m happy to announce that on Wednesday, July 4th 2012, LandminesinAfrica.org will host the “This Frisbee Clears Mines Tournament,” an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, with support from the Washington Area Frisbee Club to benefit Mines Advisory Group‘s landmine clearance activities.  The Tournament will take place at Anacostia Park in Washington, DC; all participants should arrive no later than 9:30 am for registration and team assignments.

The tournament is open to all and will follow a “Hat Tourney” format.  What’s a Hat Tourney, you say?  In a Hat Tourney, all the participants show up at 9:30 am, put their name in a hat and from that hat, names will be drawn to form 15-person teams.  Those teams will then be put into groups and play three games each.  If there are enough teams, we’ll have a final championship match.

Since the Tournament is on the Fourth and what’s the Fourth without a barbecue, we’ll have some grills going for lunch and snacks.  MAG will have a table in case you want to learn more about landmines and their work.

To register, you can either show up on the Tournament day with your $10 donation to Mines Advisory Group, or you can pre-register by making your $10 donation via Tournament’s dedicated First Giving page.  You should feel free to donate more, if you so choose or if you can’t make the tournament, but want to contribute, your support would be welcome.

For more information about the tournament, please email me at michael.patrick.moore@gmail.com.

For more information about Mines Advisory Group, please visit their webpage at www.maginternational.org/usa

For more information about Ultimate Frisbee and the Washington Area Frisbee Club, please visit WAFC’s webpage at www.wafc.org

For more information about landmines and mine action, as well as information about other landmine awareness raising activities, please visit the US Campaign to Ban Landmines webpage at www.uscbl.org, and the Lend Your Leg campaign website at www.lendyourleg.org

Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you on the 4th!

Michael P. Moore

www.LandminesinAfrica.org

michael.patrick.moore@gmail.com

Follow us on Twitter: @minesinafrica