Peru: landmines continue to claim victims
Although Peru's decades-old conflict has finally come to an end, the countryside is littered with 50,000 anti-personnel landmines that continue to claim victims among the civilian population.
The ICRC has cooperated with the National Rehabilitation Institute in Callao, providing it with basic supplies needed to manufacture artificial limbs and helping to train its technicians. It is currently providing assistance for government efforts to implement mine-related norms and is urging congress to support a bill that would punish the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of mines, in compliance with the Ottawa Convention.
The mines are scattered across the north of the country, near the border with Ecuador, where a series of steel towers carrying high-tension wires spans the central sierra. They also surround three prisons and two police stations in the area. Most of the victims of these stealthy killers are farmers who come across them accidentally while taking their animals to graze and children who are attracted to their intriguing shapes and bright colours.
Freddy Mendoza Córdova was nine years old in 1993. He was living in an area of farmland and pastures in Junín department. On 8 January, Freddy had taken his herd to graze near the towers when he noticed a shiny object half-buried in the ground outside a fenced-off area that was infested with mines. Thinking it was a radio, he picked it up and pressed a button to see if he could switch it on.
There was a loud blast. Freddy's family rushed to his side and found him lying so still that they thought he was dead. They brought him home and held a 16-hour wake for him. It wasn't until someone saw his body move slightly that they realized he was still alive. They immediately took him to a medical centre where doctors managed to save his life. But he lost both eyes and part of both hands in the accident.
Freddy now lives in Lima, where he receives specialized care and has undergone surgery on his eye socket. " It's so people won't be afraid of me when they see me, " he says. No w aged 23, Freddy is unable to find a job and receives no social benefits. He manages to survive by selling candy in the street and with the help of his 12-year-old sister, Mary Luz, who acts as his guide.
On 28 May 2003, 10-year-old Noé Ñahuero Luján had taken his animals to graze on land that was dotted with electricity towers in Huancavelica. He saw a mine, picked it up out of curiosity and took it home with him. The next day, when he was alone, he carried the device through the kitchen, where the heat of the stove caused it to explode. As a result of the blast, Noé lost one eye, inju red the other and had to have his right arm amputated. He is one of 300 mine victims registered in the database of Contraminas, the official Peruvian mine-action agency.
To enable Noé to receive specialized care, his family moved to Lima. There, he underwent surgery to have a lens implanted in his eye and was fitted with an artificial limb. Both will have to be replaced periodically as Noé grows. So the family has settled permanently on the outskirts of the capital, where Noé's father ekes out a living as a day worker in the fields and his older brother hires himself out as household help. In order to survive, Noé and his family, of Quechua origin, have had to learn Spanish.