Canadian Landmine Awareness Week: Handicap International is calling on the Canadian government to supply financial aid that meets the challenges faced

MONTREAL, Feb. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - To mark the Canadian Landmine Awareness Week (February 28 - March 6th), Handicap International is calling on Canada to strengthen its commitment to the fight against landmines, notably in fulfilling its obligations to victim assistance and mine clearance.

Handicap International bemoans the drastic fall (57%) in Canadian aid to the fight against landmines, particularly when compared with last year. According to the Landmine Monitor 2010 Report, this represents the most significant decrease among all donor countries in 2009. "The spectacular decrease in Canadian aid is disquieting", claims Claire Fehrenbach, director of Handicap International Canada, before adding that "Canada, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in particular, seems to be gradually divesting itself of its commitment to fight landmines. This is worrisome given that 500,000 people have survived the explosion of either a landmine or an explosive remnant of war (ERW). They need lifetime assistance, access to aid, socio-economic inclusion. Their families and communities also need support".

In conjunction with this decrease, Canadian aid in fighting landmines was limited to a few countries, notably Afghanistan, and was essentially channeled through the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. "This aid is vital, however Canadian field operations, including NGOs undertaking mine clearance or victim assistance in mine-plagued countries, see very little of it", adds Claire Fehrenbach. The association is urging the Canadian government to assume its past leadership and deploy the necessary funds.

Another distressing point highlighted in the Landmine Monitor 2010 report is Burma's continuing use of landmines. It is the last nation in the world that grants itself the right to employ these barbaric weapons. Paramilitary groups from six countries are suspected landmine users.

The latter fact blights the report's relatively positive findings:

  • In 2009, the use and production of these arms as well as accidents caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) are at their lowest levels since 1999. "This is a victory for Handicap International and for those who have been committed to the fight for over ten years" affirms Claire Fehrenbach.
  • Last year, 3,956 new landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) victims were accounted for; this is a 28% decrease relative to 2008. However, data remains incomplete or non-existent in most affected countries and the Landmine Monitor estimates the number of victims to be much more significant.
  • 557 square kilometers have undergone clearance, mostly in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Croatia, Iraq and Sri Lanka, this represents the destruction of 255,000 landmines, 37,000 anti-tank mines and 2 million explosive remnants of war (ERW). This is the first time that the Monitor records such a finding.
  • 86 countries have finalized the destruction of their landmine stockpiles for a total of 45 million destroyed mines.
  • In 2009, 73 states and territories were contaminated by landmines.

Landmine Monitor 2010 is the 12th annual report of its kind. It tracks worldwide developments in relation to interdiction policy, use, production, trade and stockpiling of landmines. It provides information on landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination, mine clearance and victim assistance. The report chronicles 2009 and includes information until August 2010 wherever possible.

For more information: www.handicap-international.ca

About Handicap International

Handicap International is an independent and impartial international aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essentials needs, improving their living conditions and promoting respect for their dignity and their fundamental rights. The Association co-founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1997.

SOURCE HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL

For further information:

For more information and/or an interview:

Annaïg Pilpré annaig.pilpre@handicap-international.ca    Tel : 514 908 2813 ext. 225

Khoudia NDIAYE khoudia.ndiaye@handicap-international.ca

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