Harare – UNIC joined Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Defence and various Non Governmental Organizations in commemorating International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action at Defence House in Harare.
This year, the day was being commemorated under the theme ‘Lend a leg’ in a campaign to show support and compassion for survivors of landmines.
Over the past six years, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) has cleared over 33 560 out of an estimated three million landmines that were planted along Zimbabwe’s borders. According to the Deputy Commander of ZNA Engineer Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Edwards, landmines that were planted cover 850 kilometres meaning 580 kilometres of land still needs to be cleared.
To begin the Day, the Ministry mounted an exhibition of different types of landmines and provided an explanation of each landmine. This was followed by a formal ceremony. In his speech to mark the Day, the Director for Policy, Public Relations and International Affairs in the Defence Ministry Mr Machaya said the history of landmines in Zimbabwe dated back to the time of the country’s liberation struggle against the Ian Smith regime, ‘which after being overwhelmed by the freedom fighters decided to lay landmines as a way of inhibiting the free movement of the liberation fighters in and out of Zimbabwe for training and resupplies. Since then the mines have been buried in the ground and have continued to pose a danger to the lives of people, their livestock as well as wild animals living in the vicinity of the minefields,” he said.
According to Pascal Cuttat, Head of Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), over 44 million anti-personnel mines have been destroyed globally since 1997. Cuttat, who was also present at this commemoration, said that every year, nearly 4 000 people worldwide fall victim to anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war.
More than 160 million anti-personnel mines remain stockpiled by at least 35 States, he added.
In his 2012 message to mark the Day which was read by United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Harare Officer-in-Charge Tafadzwa Mwale, UN Secretary General (UNSG) Ban Ki-Moon said the United Nations is implementing mine risk education and victim assistance in more than 40 countries, teaching communities how to live safely in contaminated areas, and assisting survivors with disabilities to obtain access to the full range of services and rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The message further noted that the United Nations works closely with national authorities and NGOs in this.