Risks of Explosive devices ~ On International Mine Awareness Day~

 According to the latest data from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), an international network in which AAR Japan participates, the number of confirmed deaths and injuries due to landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) in 2019 rose to 5,554 in 55 countries and territories. That is a 60% increase from 3,457 in 2013. 

Seiji Konno of the AAR Tokyo Office reports on the current status of landmine issues.

HALO staff working to clear landmines in Afghanistan, with financial support from AAR (June 2019).

According to the data from 2019, the country with the highest number of victims is Afghanistan with 1,538 victims, followed by 1,125 in Syria and 358 in Myanmar. Mali, where political unrest continues, has also seen a sharp increase in casualties, with 345. 

A notable trend in recent years has been the increase in damage caused by explosive devices other than landmines, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

IEDs are explosive devices that can be made rather easily from ordinary materials and consist of five parts: Power Source, Switch, Initiator, Main Charge, and Container.

IEDs are often manufactured and used by Non-State Armed Groups, and for example, IEDs attached to vehicles that can be remotely detonated by cell phones have recently become prominent in Afghanistan. The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), a militant group operating in Iraq and Syria has previously used drones to carry IEDs.

IEDs with a detonator embedded in a polyethylene tank (from UNMAS data)

IEDs made from artillery shells (from UNMAS data)

IEDs are also causing serious damage in Mali, where casualties are rapidly increasing. In the northern region of Mali, civil war has intensified since 2012 due to the involvement of Islamic fundamentalist groups in the ethnic conflict, and many civilians have become victims of IEDs. The international community is not sitting idly by, and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and other organizations are working to remove IEDs, but in countries like Mali, where international funding for mine action is not readily available, it is difficult to make progress.

On the other hand, with the end of the conflict and the progress of mine clearance activities, the percentage of landmine/ERW victims has been decreasing. For example, from 1979 to 2019, 64,849 people were reported to have been killed or injured by landmines and ERWs in Cambodia, a 94% decrease from 1,249 in 1998 to 77 in 2019.

AAR has been supporting mine clearance in Cambodia firstly, and then Afghanistan by  funding to The HALO Trust, a UK-based organization specializing in humanitarian mine action. Although there are still many issues to be addressed, it can be said that the international community's efforts over the years are steadily bearing fruit.

Children in Afghanistan holding AAR's mine risk education materials (December 2019)

Since many civilians, including children, have been affected by landmines and ERWs, it is important to educate them on how to mitigate such risks. The AAR has been working on explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) in Afghanistan since 2002. Today, in areas of ongoing conflict and terrorism, people are exposed to a wide variety of ERW, and landmine is just one of them.

Mine action, activities such as mine clearance, EORE, and victim assistance has been key for AAR. In light of the aforementioned changes in the situation, we will continue to do our very best to reduce the damage caused by landmines and explosives.