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Update No. 97/01 on ICRC Special Appeal "Assistance for Mine Victims"

26-11-1997

 More than Sfr 6 million still needed for ICRC Special Appeal  

In June the ICRC launched a special appeal addressed to donor governments, supranational organizations, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and public/private contributors. The appeal was aimed at procuring funds for the costs incurred by the ICRC's assistance to mine victims, mine-awareness programmes and the international advocacy campaign, as well as the ICRC-administered Special Fund for the Disabled. To date, one third of the desired funding still has to be secured.

 ICRC assistance to mine victims  

Despite efforts undertaken since the appeal was launched, some 12,000 civilians have nevertheless been killed or cruelly maimed by anti-personnel mines. Some were promptly treated in surgical facilities run or supported by the ICRC and other humanitarian organizations; many more had to rely on the rudimentary medical infrastructure available in societies which have been shattered and impoverished by war.

The ICRC provides assistance to health facilities, such as first-aid posts, hospitals and prosthetic workshops, treating patients injured by mines in Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The ICRC helps to train doctors to better deal with the surgical problems specific to mine injuries. This includes a large-scale investment of human resources and a series of war-surgery seminars in various countries. However, treatment and prevention alone cannot provide the solut ion to the mine problem. A comprehensive approach must be adopted combining medical assistance with preventive measures, such as ICRC mine-awareness programmes, mine clearance carried out by specialized agencies or military forces and an international prohibition of these indiscriminate weapons.

 Between January and September the ICRC's prosthetic/orthotic centres manufactured over 8,200 prostheses and fitted more than 10,500 patients with orthopaedic appliances. Approximately 65% of the production of artificial limbs is destined for mine victims.  

Through the ICRC-administered Special Fund for the Disabled follow-up assistance was provided to former ICRC prosthetic/orthotic projects which have been handed over to local organizations, respective Ministries, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or non-governmental organizations. In 12 countries the ICRC offered training programmes, furnished material and technical assistance and contributed to the production of more than 3,000 prostheses. 

 The "Ottawa Treaty" to ban landmines: a victory for humanity  

Since the ICRC first called for a total ban on anti-personnel mine in February 1994, the entire Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has worked vigorously to raise public awareness and encourage diplomatic and military circles to accept a prohibition of the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines. A conference hosted by the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 1996 gave fresh impetus to the initiative by launching a process of discussion and negotiation of a new international humanitarian law treaty totally banning these w eapons. Involved in the " Ottawa process "  have been governments, UN agencies, as well as international and non-governmental organizations. International public opinion has also played a key role. Following meetings in Austria, Germany and Belgium a Diplomatic Conference was held in Oslo, Norway, in September 1997 which formally negotiated the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Production, Stockpiling and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction . The treaty was formally adopted by some 90 States and will be submitted for signature in Ottawa at the beginning of December. Some 120 signatures are expected and the treaty will come into force once 40 signatory States have ratified it. In the meantime, States are nonetheless encouraged to comply with the treaty's core obligations.

In banning such a widely used weapon, the " Ottawa Treaty " has set a precedent in the history of international humanitarian law. It bears witness to the determination of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and dozens of governments to deliver countless men, women and children from the scourge of landmines.

Although a number of States are unlikely to sign the treaty in the near future, prohibitions on the use of specific weapons, such as poison gas and exploding and expanding bullets, are rarely universally agreed upon at the outset but with time have become accepted and respected by all.

In 1998 the ICRC aims to spread the advocacy campaign to geographical areas which have not yet been extensively covered. Through its panoply of documents and publications on the landmine issue and its research and expertise collected in the field and at headquarter level, in 1997 the ICRC headquarters and its regional delegations supported seminars and conferences from Angola to Yemen, Germany to the Philippines, T urkmenistan to Australia and the United States. ICRC-sponsored seminars are already slated for Asia and Central Europe in 1998. Efforts at the national level, frequently made by National Societies, will be pursued, ranging from televised spots, advertisements in the international and national press to seminars and workshops for military experts and decision-makers. In addition to encouraging States to ratify the " Ottawa Treaty " , more focus will be placed on promoting care for mine victims. An extensive study will be undertaken to evaluate the psycho-social impact on mine victims and the ICRC will organize an international conference with the aim of coordinating assistance to this category of war-wounded.

 An integrated approach  

In 1997 the ICRC launched a pilot project in Afghanistan aimed at adopting a comprehensive and integrated approach to the problem of landmines. The project is based on a systematic collection of data relating to landmines and on a better interaction among all players involved in mine-related matters e.g. the local authorities, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, Red Crescent branches and ICRC staff. This should improve the efficiency of mine clearance, mine-awareness programmes and assistance to medical facilities carried out by the parties concerned and enable priorities to be set judiciously. In the next few months this scheme will be extended to other mine-affected countries.

 Mine-awareness training  

Mine-awareness training, coupled with courses on first aid, can prevent injury and reduce the rate of deaths caused by mines. The primary objective of mine awareness is to teach people how to avoid becoming victims. The core message is simple: DO NOT APPROACH OR TOUCH LANDMINES.

Th ree categories of people are particularly exposed to the danger of anti-personnel mines:

- those who are unaware of their existence and the danger they represent;

- those who are aware of the danger but do not know the correct behaviour to adopt;

- those who are aware of the danger and know how to minimize the threat but take serious risks mainly for economic reasons.

In addition to extending its operations to other countries affected by the presence of anti-personnel mines, the ICRC aims to improve the quality of its mine-awareness programmes to bring optimal protection to those at risk. ICRC mine-awareness activities range from funding mine-awareness programmes run by local organizations to full-scale campaigns using the mass media and teams of mine-awareness trainers.