Update No.99/02 on the 1998 ICRC Special Appeal "Assistance for Mine Victims"
Two important legal milestones limiting the use of landmines were set during the course of 1998. On 16 September, the Ottawa treaty banning the development, use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of landmines attained the 40 ratifications necessary for its entry into force as from 1 March 1999. Then, on 3 December, an amended landmines protocol (Protocol II) to the 1980 United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons officially came into effect.
The Ottawa treaty represents a key event in the global response to the suffering caused by landmines. Negotiated in 1997 following the failure of states to previously agree on more stringent restrictions on antipersonnel mines, the treaty has been signed by 131 countries. It provides the framework for a comprehensive long-term response to the global landmines crisis, including not only prohibitions, but also binding commitments to stockpile destruction, mine clearance and care for victims, as well as international assistance in these fields. By the end of the 1998, the treaty had been ratified by 58 states - a unique achievement for an arms-related treaty - only 13 months after its initial signature.
The amended Protocol II restricts the use and transfer of all landmines, booby-traps and other explosive devices which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects. For those countries which do not yet support a total prohibition of antipersonnel mines, the amended Protocol II provides a minimum standard for their use and transfer below which no government should fall.
Throughout 1998, the ICRC has been active in :
encouraging all states to ratify both of these legal instruments to limit the use of landmines.
supporting those states which have already ratified these treaties in their implementation phase.
ensuring that landmine victims receive appropriate medical assistance and surgical treatment.
continuing to conduct mine-awareness programmes among populations at risk.
running 47 projects for the care and rehabilitation of mine victims in 24 countries.
encouraging demining efforts in accordance with humanitarian priorities.
However, the main focus of attention must now clearly shift from legal prohibition to longer-term efforts to ensure the total elimination of antipersonnel landmines and adequate care for mine victims.
ICRC training of medical personnel and direct support to first-aid posts, health structures and hospitals ensured continued assistance to the wounded in 1998, including many victims injured by landmines.
In southern and eastern Sudan , particularly in opposition-held areas and to a lesser extent in government-held areas, there is no medical evacuation system in place for seriously-wounded civilians, many of whom are mine victims. To tackle this particular problem, the ICRC has set up medical evacuations from these conflict areas to the ICRC Lopiding surgical hospital in Lockichokio, northern Kenya and also carries out repatriations of patients back to their places of origin following treatment.
In addition to its first-aid, medical assistance and evacuation programmes, the ICRC continued to provide surgical care for injured patients from Sudan at the ICRC's surgical hospital in Lokichokio, northern Kenya, and at the Juba Teaching Hospital in Sudan. Between January and December 1998, 1,901 patients, including 914 war-wounded and 35 mine victims were admitted to Lokichokio and since August 1998, 1,696 patients including 1,071 surgical cases, have been admitted to Juba.
In Afghanistan , where the daily lives of the rural population are plagued by numerous difficulties, the presence of thousands of landmines poses a terrible additional problem; restricting their access to large tracts of cultivable land. The collapse of Afghanistan's health care system also makes it increasingly difficult for non-combatants to obtain either surgical or medical treatment. Yet there are currently tens of thousands of wounded people in need of medical care, including many landmine victims. During 1998, the ICRC provided suitable treatment and follow-up care to some 18,000 disabled people and paraplegics in Afghanistan. Assistance was accorded to patients at five hospitals, (Khandahar, Karte-Seh Kabul, Wazir-Akbahr Khan Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghazni). A total of 23,790 people were admitted to these hospitals in 1998, 4,069 of whom were war-wounded and 771 were mine victims.
The ICRC continued to manufacture components for artificial limbs for the wounded in the care of ICRC prosthetic/orthoti c centres and for other humanitarian organizations assisting the rehabilitation of the wounded. In 1998, about two-thirds of the wounded fitted were mine victims. Two new centres in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Fort Portal (Uganda) were opened and became operational during 1998.
ICRC prosthetic/orthotic programmes : production statistics for 1998
New Fittings (1)
(1) A "NEW FITTING" is a new patient or a new file which is counted only once in the statistics. When a patient receives a second prosthesis, this second prosthesis is counted in the column "PROSTHESES"
(2) A "PROSTHESIS" is an artificial limb
(3) An "ORTHOSIS" is an apparatus which reinforces a deficient or paralyzed limb
Meanwhile, throughout 1998, resources from the ICRC-administered Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD) continued to be used for physical rehabilitation projects formerly run by the ICRC, but now organized by local organizations, respective Ministries, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and non-governmental organizations, and mine victims were guaranteed a minimum follow-up.
During the year, 33 different projects were assisted by the SFD and in total they produced some 8,134 prostheses and orthoses and 4,249 pairs of crutches. Specialists based in Ethiopia and in Vietnam also visited 22 of these projects in 12 countries and gave technical and material support and training. In the same p eriod, 25 prosthetists from 12 countries attended ICRC technical courses on the use of polypropylene for the manufacture of orthopaedic devices.
Meanwhile, millions of landmines still lie in wait, an ever-present threat for entire communities. To try to reduce the indiscriminate carnage caused by these weapons, the ICRC pursued a number of projects in 1998 to alert the civilian population to the dangers of mines in areas where they live and show them how to change their customary behaviour to protect themselves against these insidious devices.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia , hundreds of instructors, many who are members of national and local Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations, have been trained to be able to conduct mine-prevention programmes in all affected regions, but in particular in those areas close to the former front lines in order to have an impact on those directly at risk. More than 1,000 mine-awareness sessions were held in both countries for the benefit of some 20,000 civilians and TV and radio spots, posters, T-shirts, educational material for schools, first-aid courses for driving licence applicants and even sporting events were used to help promote mine-awareness to the largest possible target audience.
A slightly different approach was used in Angola , where the ICRC continued to sponsor a cultural group in Huambo province, who have used theatre, dance and songs to raise the awareness of over 7,000 civilians of the dangers of landmines.
A number of other mine-awareness programmes were also carried out in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan (as a project delegation of the Swedish Red Cross Society) and in Georgia and potential projects in Kosovo, Nicaragua, Sudan and Uganda were further explored.
Throughout 1998, the ICRC pursued its efforts to promote ratification, adherence and implementation of the Ottawa treaty with the relevant authorities. In addition to its promotional material in favour of a ban on antipersonnel mines, the ICRC hosted or supported a series of seminars underlining the need for a treaty ban and assistance for mine victims.
At the beginning of February, ICRC-sponsored meetings were held in Phnom Penh for National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and at the end of March in Budapest for government representatives from central and eastern European countries. ICRC representatives also participated in meetings held in Moscow in May for countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, in Vienna at the beginning of July for European military officers and in Dhaka in December, attended by acting and retired officials from South Asia. The President of the ICRC was also one of the opening speakers at the first Middle East Conference on " land mine injury and rehabilitation " , held in Amman in July. By the end of the year, a major travelling exhibition had been produced on the Ottawa treaty for use at national and international meetings.
Ref. LG 1999-013-ENG