Sunday, February 14, 2010

Number of Cambodian landmine casualties shows further annual drop

This is good news. But there is still a long way to go!

Thu, 11 Feb 2010

Phnom Penh - Official figures released Thursday showed the number of Cambodians injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance dropped 12 per cent last year from 2008 although the number killed remained constant at 47 in each year. A total of 243 people were killed or injured in 2009 by explosive remnants of war (ERW), down from 271 the previous year, the Cambodian Mine/ERW Victim Information Service said.

The number of victims has shown a steady decline year-on-year since 1994 when almost 3,000 people were killed or injured.

Chhiv Lim, a project officer for the service, said a survey undertaken four years ago showed several reasons behind the annual decline in deaths and injuries.

"We found the number one reason was demining activities, and that's because we have a lot of people involved in demining," he said. "The second is that people [have been educated] to understand the dangers of mines and ERW."

Other experts have previously said a further factor in Cambodia's predominantly agricultural society has been farmers earning better prices for crops. Improved incomes mean less need to forage for supplementary products such as bamboo and firewood and a lower risk at coming across unexploded ordnance.

More than half of last year's deaths and injuries came from three provinces in the country's north-west. The majority of victims were men while around one-third were children.

In 1999, Cambodia ratified the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines. While more than 150 countries have signed the treaty, China, Russia and the United States are among those that refuse to do so.

The treaty gave countries 10 years until 2009 to clear all mines from their territory, but Cambodia missed that goal. In December, Cambodia was granted a 10-year extension on the deadline although it is still thought unlikely to reach that revised target.

This week, Germany pledged 1.4 million US dollars for demining in Cambodia's north-west, adding to around 10 million dollars it has provided for demining in the country since 1999.

Cambodia has one of the highest disability rates in the world, a legacy of the country's decades of civil war that started in the 1960s and finished in the late 1990s.

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