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4th April marks International Mine Awareness day. While these highly dangerous remnants of war can have devastating after-effects for many years after battle, the head of policy at mine-clearing NGO Norwegian People's Aid tells SBS Norwegian, "In my world the positive stories come every day." 


Frank Mathisen
Published on
Monday, April 3, 2017 - 13:44
File size
3.2 MB
7 min 5 sec

Landmines, cluster bombs and other remnants of war cause horrific injuries not just on the battlefield but for many, many years to come.

In a statement to promote International Mine Awareness day on 4th April, Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres says "Improvised explosive devices are killing and injuring thousands of civilians annually."

"These pernicious devices are hidden in homes and schools, terrorising local populations."

Although land mines create a lot of misery, for Christian Ruge, Head of Policy at Norwegian People's Aid, every day is a good day.

He explains: "In my world the positive stories come every day as we have people out in the former war areas clearing explosives that otherwise would have injured or killed civilians, kids playing or farmers digging up their soil."

Norwegian People's Aid is one of the leading NGOs working to clear mines and prevent their use. 

Their work spans over many regions in the world from old conflict areas in South East Asia and Africa to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

The theme of UN’s International Mine Awareness day for 2017 is: "Needs-driven. People-centred."

It was in 1995 that UN first declared 4th April as International Mine Awareness day, with the most significant effort to reduce the use and distribution of land mines coming 20 years ago in 1997 with the formation of the Ottawa Treaty.

The Ottawa Treaty, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty aims at eliminating anti-personnel landmines around the world.

Australia is a signature to the treaty, whilst US, Russia, China and 33 other UN nations are not.

NPA's Head of Policy Christian Ruge tells SBS Norwegian "very few other states use land mines now."

"We are talking about basically rogue states like Bashar al-Assads regimes for example."

NPA is working to clear mines and explosives in more than 20 regions around the world, including the typical legacy areas in South East Asia like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - but also in the newly embattled regions. 

Ruge says that they are already working in the liberated areas of Mosul.

"Not in the frontlines of course," he explains. "We are a civilian organisation."

"But we have teams for example now in the outskirts of Mosul in Iraq, finding and clearing these improvised explosive devises that ISIS have placed in the ground, in quite significant numbers actually."

Ruge says that they don't expect to see a overnight solution to clearing land mines, but that "We do see improvements in methodology when it comes to serving and identifying mine areas."

"We have gained a lot from the use of mine detection dogs that can cover larger areas much more effectively than humans can do."

These actions mean that people can secure their own livelihood and children can get an education without fearing for their lives.

This is also reflected in the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: "No one should have to live in fear of dying even after the fighting stops."

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