International Day for Mine Awareness
Asmara, 4 April - The International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action was commemorated at a colorful event at the Expo site in Asmara, Eritrea's capital city today.
The event was organized by the Eritrean Demining Agency and attended by the UNMEE Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC) in association with the UNMEE Public Information Office (PIO), and several Eritrea-based UN agencies, including UNICEF and UNDP, members of the diplomatic corps, and the public.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Eritrea (Mr. Macleod Nyirongo) spoke at the event on behalf of the United Nations. He said that the commemoration of the Mine ban treaty which was created by the UN General Assembly was very important in Eritrea particularly because the country is among the most mined countries in the world.
He said that almost 700,000 people were directly affected by the mines which date from the 19th Century and the first and second World Wars. He said that many more were planted during the 1998-2000 border war and still more landmines were being planted "through clandestine groups which are interested in ensuring this region does not have peace." Mr. Nyirongo assured the audience however that "all Agencies continue to work as a group to clear the landmines."
The Eritrean Demining Agency General Manager, Brigadier General Tesfai Issa, complimented the Government of Eritrea for outstanding support for mine action. He said the Government was providing assistance to the Eritrean Demining Agency which was "working to it's utmost available capacity to promote it's mine clearance objectives."
Some 300 children from schools in Asmara and neighbouring villages participated in the event.
Land mines and other remnants of war often remain in the ground for decades; killing and maiming as many as 15,000 to 20,000 people every year. Most victims are civilians and children, the latter often accounting for one in every five landmine victims.