A Footstep Away From Death
“Sometimes I dream that I have two legs again. . . . Years ago, when I was very small, I went to play with my friends close to my house. All of a sudden ‘BOOM’. . . The whole of my right leg was blown off.”—Song Kosal, 12, Cambodia.
Each day, on the average, some 70 people are maimed or killed by land mines. Most victims are not soldiers. Instead, they are civilians—men tending cattle, women getting water, and children playing. For example, eight-year-old Rukia, featured on our cover, was maimed by a mine that killed her three brothers and her aunt.
A land mine can remain active for more than 50 years after it is planted. Thus, “it is the only weapon in existence which kills more people after a conflict ends than while it is fought,” notes The Defense Monitor. No one knows how many land mines are planted worldwide. It is not uncommon to hear estimates of at least 60 million. True, many land mines are being removed. As recently as 1997, however, the United Nations reported that “for every mine cleared, 20 are laid. In 1994, approximately 100,000 were removed, while an additional 2 million were planted.”
Why are land mines the weapon of choice for many modern-day warlords? What are the economic and social costs? How are survivors affected? Will our planet ever be free of land mines?
[Picture Credit Lines on page 3]
© ICRC/David Higgs
Copyright Nic Dunlop/Panos Pictures