There are about 12 million active landmines in 71 countries throughout the world. The most severely affected areas are Afghanistan (one million mines), Angola (1.5 million), Bosnia (600,000), Cambodia (one million), Croatia (600,000), Eritrea (100,000), Iraq (Kurdistan -- one million), Mozambique (300,000), Somalia (100,000), Sudan (100,000), and Viet Nam (20 years after the end of the war) (350,000).
It costs 100 times more to remove each landmine than it does to plant it.
For every mine cleared, 20 are laid. Each year some 100,000 are removed, while another 2 million are planted.
Experts think that under current conditions it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the entire world of mines, and then only if not a single new mine were laid. On average, for every 5,000 mines removed one deminer is killed and two others are injured.
But it need not take that long. During World War II, millions of landmines were planted in Europe. But it wasn't long after the end of the war that they had all been removed. This happened because the political will existed to remove the landmines. The problem today is that the countries worst affected are developing countries that cannot afford to remove the landmines and the wealthy countries of the world do not have the political will to help them solve the problem.
Until these mines have been removed, the treaty banning landmines will mean nothing to the hundreds and thousands of people who are going to be killed or mutilated by the existing millions of landmines.
Anti-personnel mines cause unspeakable suffering. Landmines cause extensive injuries which often lead to amputation, severe disability and psychological trauma. Dirt, debris, metal or plastic fragments from the casing and shattered foot bone may be driven deep into the wounds. Treatment is needed urgently, surgery is difficult and amputation is often inevitable.
In the US, there is 1 amputee per 22,000 inhabitants. In Cambodia, one of the countries worst affected by mines, there is one amputee per 384 inhabitants. Angola, with one amputee per 334 inhabitants, has the highest rate of amputees per inhabitant in the world; about 1.5% of the population has been injured in mine or unexploded ordnance incidents.
Despite the horror of death and mutilation, governments are slow to ban the production and export of landmines, and even slower to offer assistance in the removal of landmines. But this trade in death must stop. It represents a very small part of the sales of armaments manufacturers but it inflicts untold suffering on innocent victims long after the fighting has ended. And western governments must take the lead in providing the money, equipment and training needed to remove landmines.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been treating victims of mines for decades and is campaigning for the banning of mines. A record number of 350 Non Governmental Organisations have combined to create the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.