Monday, July 06, 2009

WWB: Civilian casualties from landmines

WHAT WAR BRINGS: Civilian casualties from landmines

A report last month in McClatchy told of the casualties from landmines in the Basra area, and also told how Iraq is no longer clearing out the landmines from the wars that have plagued Iraq since the 1980’s.

Iraq halts clearing landmines even as huge toll keeps rising

Sadiqa Foroon has lost two brothers, her right foot and 32 sheep to landmines and other explosive remnants of the three wars that have raged through her village since 1980.

Burns from the mine she stepped on contort the right side of her face. "And my horse is missing a hoof," she said with a weary laugh. "So is my donkey."

Still, every morning she trudges back into the sun-scorched scrubland behind her house — one of the most densely contaminated minefields on the planet, according to international aid organizations — to collect firewood in order to cook for 12 children, and to harvest whatever scrap metal she thinks she can sell.

The article claims that the Iraqi Ministry of Defense stopped the mine-clearing operations because they feared that locals were selling the explosives to insurgents. Iraqi’s Environmental Ministry was opposed to this decision.

It is estimated that one Iraqi loses a limb or his/her life EVERY DAY in Iraq. Most casualties go unreported. This happens in Kurdistan and in Basra area.

The McClatchy article goes on to state:

The U.N. estimates that during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, American planes dropped 54 million "cluster bombs," small, grenade-like explosives scattered from a single shell. Most fell in southern and central Iraq.

Deputy Environment Minister Kamal Latif said that an estimated 16 percent of those cluster bombs — more than 8 million — failed to explode and now litter the ground. They rest on top of 25 million landmines that the late dictator Saddam Hussein planted during Iraq's war with Iran in the 1980s and before the Gulf War and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

One village badly affected is Said Jabar, near Basra. It is claimed that more than 400 of the 2,500 residents have lost limbs or been killed by mines.

Here’s another story about landmines in Iraq. This is just one news article from Voices of Iraq website. I’m am sure there are many, many more such stories – including many that never make any news source at all.

Civilian wounded by landmine in Basra

A civilian man was wounded west of Basra on Sunday after stepping on a landmine left from previous wars, the city’s police information office said.

…….. There are a large number of landmine fields to the west and east of Basra left from previous wars in Iraq. The victims are mostly civilians, particularly women and children who shepherd in these areas and also search among the scraps for copper and aluminum to sell in order to eke out a living.

And this happens in Afghanistan too.

Three children among 34 killed in Afghanistan

Three Afghan children were killed Friday by a mortar left over from a battle between police and Taliban, as bomb attacks and clashes left 31 more people dead…… The children, aged four to 10, were killed Friday when they touched a mortar shell left over from an exchange of fire the previous day between Taliban and police in the central province of Ghazni, police said. Another child was wounded, said provincial police chief Khial Baz Sherbaz.

How bad is it?

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) published this recently:

Iraq is estimated to have 20 million landmines and 2.66 million cluster bombs spread out over more than 1,700 square kilometres. Only 20 square kilometres have been cleared by demining organisations since Iraq signed up to the UN’s Mine Ban Treaty in February 2008.

The UN estimated that more than 1.6 million people are affected by the landmines. UNICEF reported that one million children are at risk.

And here is a clip on how they are trying to cope with the situation:

The Centre for Artificial Limbs in Basra was established in 1995 to provide aid to landmine victims. It is the only centre of its kind in southern Iraq and has about 600 people on its waiting list. Dr Kamal Yacoub, the centre’s director, says it is not equipped to cope with the demand.

“The centre produces 50 to 60 artificial limbs a month on average and can serve the same number of handicapped people, about 70 per cent of whom are landmine victims,” he said.

On July 5, 2009, we had news that 16 UN workers on de-mining between Logar and Paktia, went missing. The only thing found was their abandoned ambulance.

This article gives some more information on mines in Afghanistan:

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and the increase in violence amid a thriving Taliban insurgency has slowed clearance work. Some 50 people are killed and maimed by mines every month.

I hope they are safe. I fear they are not.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: civilian casualties from left over ordinance and landmines.

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