Yemen will be landmine-free in 2014, says expert [Archives:2008/1143/Front Page]

April 3 2008

By: Hamed Thabet
SANA'A, April 2 ) Yemen aims to eliminate the most landmines from every Yemeni governorate by March 2009 and to eliminate landmines from Yemen completely by 2014.

Mansour Mohammed Al-Azi, the director of program management for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the chairman of the Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center, stated that by 2014, Yemen would be free of all types of mines in all governorates.

The director's statement came shortly before the International Mine Awareness Day and Assistance in Mine Action, which will be held on April 4. International Mine Awareness Day focuses global attention on the danger of these legacies of war and marks the progress that has been made towards their eradication.

Yemen ratified the anti-personnel landmine-ban treaty in 1998, and has committed to completely clear its minefields. The same year, the government began the National Mine Action Program and by 2002 had completed the destruction of stockpiled anti-personnel mines in line with article seven of the mine-ban treaty. It has also developed and enforced legislation in line with article nine of the same treaty.

The threat of landmines still exists in more than 80 countries. Countries with the highest amount of un-cleared mines include Afghanistan, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia and Yemen, which was classified as one of the 24 countries most affected by landmines.

Mines were planted in all of the Yemeni governorates except Mahweet, located south of the capital Sana'a. Based on the center's statistics, the four governorates with the highest number of mines are Ibb, Al-Thale'e, Al-Beitha, and Taiz. Seventy percent of the mines in Yemen are anti-personnel, five percent are anti-tank mines, and the remainder are mixed mines (lands with multiple types of explosives, such as both anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines), which are considered the worst and most difficult to eliminate. Unexploded mines are spread all over Yemen, added Al-Azi.

However, the center marked a decrease in the number of mine victims – now about one or two victims per month – since 2000, when there were 15 to 27 victims per month. Al-Azi added that over 800,000 Yemenis are at risk, as they reside close to lands planted with landmines.

The center carried out a number of awareness campaigns in order to educate approximately 600,000 of these vulnerable citizens and warn them about the risks and dangers of living ear landmines.

The Mine Action Center works under the National Mine Action Committee, with the cooperation of the UNDP. The annual budget for mine action operations is US $6,500,000.

According to the 2005 Landmine Monitor Report, between 15,000 and 20,000 people – at least 20 percent of them children – lose their lives worldwide due to these devices, but that number has been decreasing over the last decade.