Magazine article The Christian Century

Deadly Harvest: Millions of Land Mines

Magazine article The Christian Century

Deadly Harvest: Millions of Land Mines

Article excerpt

MORE LEGS, less arms!" shout Cambodian refugees. The macabre slogan points to the terrible impact of antipersonnel land mines in war-torn countries. In Cambodia, for example, one of every 237 persons has lost a limb. When Young Eng stepped on a mine, she lost one leg and injured the other. "Sometimes, forgetful of my maimed state, I spring to catch my little child," she says, "and then I fall to the ground."

In Bosnia and Croatia, the UN estimates that it would take 1,000 mine clearers over 30 years to discover the 6 million mines scattered there. Even if armed conflict does not resume, the mines will maim and kill people for years to come.

Angola contains 9 million land mines, or one land mine for every man, woman and child in the country. Connie Braithwaite, Lutheran World Federation/World Service director in Angola, speaks of the dilemma faced by the civilian population. "They take the risk of preparing the land in some areas without the land mines being cleared. And every day I can hear on the radio that somebody lost a leg. What do you do in a situation like this? Do you tell them not to go to their fields?"

There is also the cost of lost productivity in nations struggling to recover after prolonged conflicts. Along the border shared by Zimbabwe and Mozambique, 1 million acres of agricultural land are left uncultivated due to the presence of land mines. Where does this leave the individual farmer who knows no other trade and desperately needs access to arable land? Where does it leave a nation struggling to overcome dependence on imports and donated food?

Along with a number of church-based organizations, Lutheran World Relief is helping to de-mine an agricultural area of Cambodia. For organizations like LWR, there is a compelling humanitarian imperative to engage in de-mining. We want to resettle displaced people and help them to resume productive activities, but our more traditional development efforts are blocked by the widespread presence of mines. We cannot help families resettle and farm, we cannot offer training or provide seeds and livestock until the mines are removed. …

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