The Silver Lining in the Really Awful 2015 Landmine Casualty StatisticsPosted: December 5, 2016
According to the Landmine Monitor, the de facto monitoring regime of the Mine Ban Treaty, casualties from landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) increased in by 75% in 2015; from 3,695 person killed and injured in 2014 to 6,461 in 2015. This dramatic increase reversed a decade of progress in which landmine casualties declined thanks to clearance programs, increased awareness and the stigma on use of new mines.
Make no mistake: This is really awful news. I had an inkling that landmine casualties were likely to increase in 2015 from compiling the monthly news round-ups for the blog, but I had no considered the possibility the increase was so severe.
In Africa the situation is even worse: there were 1,678 landmine and ERW casualties in 2015, an increase of 230% over the 731 casualties reported in 2014.
The “Silver Lining”
The increase in casualties was due to active conflicts in four countries: Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, where governments and rebel forces were actively using landmines and cluster munitions in 2015. [The Monitor also notes that Afghanistan, which again had the largest number of casualties in 2015, 1,310 persons killed and injured, is a major contributor to the 2015 casualty totals, but with 1,296 casualties in 2014, there was basically no increase in casualties in 2015]. If you take out the casualties from those four countries – Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen – the number of landmine and ERW casualties reduced by about 10%; from 3,339 in 2014 to 3,016 in 2015.
In Africa, if you exclude the Libyan casualties, landmine and ERW casualties declined by 6%, from 721 in 2014 to 674 in 2015.
What this Means
The dramatic increase in landmine casualties can be directly tied to new use of landmines and cluster munitions in the ongoing wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen. As long as combatants continue to use these weapons, we can expect to see new casualties and when there is new use of mines and cluster munitions we will see increases in casualties.
The armies and rebel groups using mines and cluster bombs in these conflicts are not party to the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions or Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment. If they were, then they would be pledged to not use such weapons. All countries and combatants should disavow these and other inhumane weapons and parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions need to condemn any use. As we can see from recent developments in the defense industries, the stigma against cluster munition use has prompted several arms manufacturers to discontinue production of these weapons and only a very few countries still produce landmines. As long as these weapon remain in national stockpiles, they will be used.
Every Silver Lining has a Touch of Gray
Several countries in Africa witnessed an increase in landmine and ERW casualties in 2015. In Egypt, Mali, South Sudan and Sudan, these increases were due to ongoing conflicts (Egypt, Mali and Sudan) and movements of displaced people through mine-affected areas (South Sudan). Morocco and Namibia also witnessed increases in landmine casualties even though both countries have long been at peace. Other countries also free from conflict – such as Angola and Zimbabwe – saw reduced numbers of casualties, but still people are dying and being disabled from wars that ended decades ago. And in Mozambique, which declared itself landmine-free in September 2015, saw three casualties from anti-personnel landmines. Fortunately, these will be the last landmine casualties in Mozambique, but that is probably little solace to the victims and their families.
Michael P. Moore
December 5, 2016
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org