In the modern world of internet, telecommunications, mass media and whatnot, the ability for individuals to find platforms to express themselves is simply astonishing. However, one group I keep looking for and have some difficulty finding is landmine survivors. There are many, many landmine survivor stories available on line, but many of them are filtered through one of the many (worthy) organizations working in mine action. The survivors’ voices are selected for their ability to convey the message the mine action organization needs to communicate, often related to fund-raising. The opportunities to hear directly from survivors in an unfiltered manner are few, but notable. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of survivor voices which provides some sense of the breadth of landmine survivors who are telling their own stories, on behalf of themselves and their peers.
Associations and Organizations
Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (www.uganda-survivors.org): Founded in 2005 and led by survivor and International Campaign to Ban Landmines ambassador, Margaret Arach Orech, the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA) is a national organization focusing on advocacy and victim assistance. The Association’s members are locally-based survivor associations that strive to serve the needs of landmine victims in their areas through a range of victim assistance programs, including psycho-social support and economic empowerment.
Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (www.afghanlandminesurvivors.org and www.facebook.com/afghanlandminesurvivorsorganization): Founded in 2007 the Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO) provides peer outreach, vocational training, and advocacy for landmine victims. On behalf of all persons with disabilities, ALSO works on issues of inclusion and accessibility and uses social and traditional media (check out their Flickr page in addition to their Facebook page) to get their message out.
Landmine Survivors Initiative (www.ipm-lsi.org): Founded by the former employees of Landmine Survivors Network’s Bosnia-Herzegovina office, Bosnia’s Landmine Survivors Initiative (“Inicijative preživjelih od mina” in Bosnian) continues to provide peer support and advocacy leadership for landmine survivors in Southeastern Europe.
Saharawi Association of Landmine Victims (www.facebook.com/ASAVIM): The Saharawi Association of Landmine Victims (Asociación Saharaui de Víctimas de Minas, ASAVIM) provides victim assistance and mine risk education services to Saharawi living in refugee camps in Algeria. The Director of ASAVIM participated in the 2012 “Lend Your Leg” campaign.
Firoz Alizada (Twitter: firozalizada): Firoz is the Campaign Manager for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (www.icbl.org) and a landmine survivor from Afghanistan. Firoz lost both legs in 1996 when he was 13 and on his way to school.
Giles Duley (Twitter: @gilesduley, www.gilesduley.com): Giles is a photographer focusing on humanitarian projects after working in fashion and music. In 2011, he lost both legs and an arm whilst on patrol with the US Army’s 75th Cavalry Regiment in Afghanistan. He describes his experience in a TED Talk and in the Channel 4 feature, “Walking Wounded: Return to the Frontline.”
Stuart Hughes (Twitter: @stuartdhughes): Stuart is a news producer for the BBC. He lost a leg in an explosion in Iraq during 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2012, he carried the Olympic Torch as part of the relay prior to the London Olympics.
The Advocacy Project (www.AdvocacyNet.org): The Advocacy Project (AP) works with human rights and advocacy organizations to build their capacity to advocate for themselves. AP volunteers establish blogs and social media channels for partner organizations and then trains them on their use. In Vietnam, AP supports the Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and in Uganda, AP supports the Gulu Disabled Persons Union which has links to the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association.
Landmine Victims Speak Up (www.Landmine-Victims.org): Created by a high school senior in North Carolina, Landmine Victims Speak Up provides a forum for Bosnian landmine victims to tell their stories. I love that this site exists.
YouTube (www.YouTube.com): YouTube is a video sharing site that has been extensively used by mine action organizations for awareness-raising and publicity efforts. While the videos are produced by the organizations, the videos provide survivors with the (edited) opportunity to describe their lives, hopes and needs. Some channels worth checking out are:
- Landmines in Africa ();
- A Mine Free World Foundation ();
- The Advocacy Project ();
- Handicap International (also see channels for HI’s UK, France and Belgium);
- Mines Advisory Group (also see channel for MAG America); and
- United Nations Mine Action Service;
Another video-sharing site is VIMEO but many of the videos available on VIMEO are also available on YouTube (although there may be some deterioration in quality in the conversion from the higher-resolution, better produced material on VIMEO, to the lower-resolution, more accessible YouTube).
If you know of other Survivor Voices in the Internet, please let me know and I will update this list.
Michael P. Moore
February 25, 2013
Welcome to the Landmines in Africa Blog! Okay, so that exclamation point is probably as cheery as we’re going to get about the subject, the continuing use and danger of landmines on the African continent. According to Project Ploughshares there were, as of May 20, 2011, nine active conflicts in eight nations in Africa. A tenth can be added with the eruption of civil war in Libya. Therefore nearly 20% of all African states have experienced conflict in this year alone and in at least five of those conflicts, landmines have been used causing indiscriminate harm.
Let’s start with a few definitions. It’s always good to know what one is saying whilst he is saying it. When I talk about landmines I am using the definition of an anti-personnel mine from the 1997 Ottawa Treaty banning the use, production and transfer of landmines which is “a [munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle] designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.” See also ICBL’s discussion here.
When I talk about Africa I mean the entire continent and the nations that are members of the African Union and are eligible to participate in the Confédération Africaine du Football’s Cup of Nations tournament. Some commentators may say “Africa” when they really mean “Sub-Saharan Africa” and are excluding the North African states from Morocco to Egypt. If I mean to say “Sub-Saharan Africa,” I will try to do so.
When I talk about landmine victims, I am referring to all persons injured or killed by landmines and unexploded ordnance, their families and communities. More broadly, I am also referring to those persons whose lives are constrained by landmines, “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.” I include victims of unexploded ordnance (sometimes referred to as “explosive remnants of war”) because the injuries sustained from many kinds of explosive material are similar and by the time the injuries occur, the exact weapon is immaterial. Again, please see the ICBL’s discussion here.
I am not yet sure how this blog will play out. I have several things I want to accomplish and I will try to touch on all of these but how I shall do so is still to be determined. Of interest are:
Updates on mine action: For example reporting about victims, notable achievements and government actions (positive and negative).
In-depth discussions of the landmine situation in particular countries: While the annual Landmine Monitor is (and should be for everyone) the primary source of information about mine action in individual countries, I see a need for slightly more work, especially challenging claims made by governments and providing commentary rather than strict reporting.
Descriptions of organizations doing mine action in Africa: In particular my interest is in the national and local organizations rather than the international organizations (which are able to produce their own publicity). If you know of any organization that deserves a shout-out, please let me know and I will try to write about them here.
Lastly, who am I? I am an organization development professional with more than a dozen years of experience working with not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations around the world. Five of those years were spent working for Landmine Survivors Network (LSN, later Survivor Corps). My time with LSN was the most personally rewarding period of my worklife, but also the most heart-wrenching. Every day I would hear stories about persons affected by landmines, some inspiring but all too many tragic. This blog is my meager way of keeping focus on the issue of landmines, particularly as they affect Africa. Nearly every state in Africa has banned landmines but still people are being killed or injured by these weapons. Until every step is safe, we must keep up the work.
Feel free to contact me via Twitter (@minesinafrica) or by commenting on any of my posts.
Michael P. Moore, August 1, 2011