UN chief seeks global efforts to safeguard people from mines

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at an event in Portugal on Jan. 5, 2023. Screenshot from Reuters video.

In a message on the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for broader global efforts to safeguard people from mines.

“For the millions living amidst the chaos of armed conflicts — especially women and children — every step can put them in danger’s path,” he said.

“Even after the fighting stops, conflicts often leave behind a terrifying legacy: landmines and explosive ordnance that litter communities,” he said. “Peace brings no assurance of safety when roads and fields are mined when unexploded ordnance threatens the return of displaced populations, and when children find and play with shiny objects that explode.”

Meanwhile, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan, in a tweet said that since 1989, almost 57,000 Afghan civilians had been killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war.

The organization said that mine action partners in Afghanistan have cleared over 19M items during this time. It added that more than 4,150 identified hazards remain, posing a lethal threat to communities, particularly children.

The United Nations Mine Action Service gathers partners together to remove these deadly weapons, support national authorities, and ensure safe access to homes, schools, hospitals and farmers’ fields, said the UN chief. He added that the Service also supported the design of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the safe export of grain and fertilizer from Ukrainian ports.

“I urge Member States to ratify and fully implement the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons,” Guterres said.

On this International Day, let’s take action to end the threat of these devices of death, support communities as they heal, and help people return and rebuild their lives in safety and security, he concluded.

This comes as unexploded ordnance still takes the lives of dozens of people in Afghanistan annually.

Figures by Taliban’s Directorate of Mine Action Coordination in October showed that civilian casualties from UXO incidents had increased in recent months.

According to the authority, over 500 people were killed or wounded in such incidents over the last year and vast areas need to be cleared of the remnants of war.