As an organisation that was founded to address the plight of children affected by conflict in the aftermath of World War I, Save the Children strongly opposes the recent decision to end the prohibition on the use of anti-personnel landmines and urges the US government to reconsider this policy change that endangers children.
Not only do we know that the majority of landmines and explosive remnants of war kill civilians (71%), but more than half of all the civilians who are killed are children (54%). In places like Afghanistan the percentage of child casualties is as high as 77%.
Efforts by the U.S. military to create “non-persistent” landmines may shorten the lifespan of the explosive device through programmed self-destruction, but their lethality, indiscriminate nature, and ability to harm children remains. In reality, there is no such thing as responsible use of indiscriminate weapons of war.
For the 420 million children living in conflict zones around the world, the risks to their lives is already too great. There is a reason why killing and maiming is listed first among the six grave violations against children. The verified numbers of children killed and maimed globally is already at record levels. A U.S. abdication of leadership on the issue of landmines risks furthering a race to the bottom that will reverberate across the globe and cause more children to die and suffer.
From Syria and Yemen to Nigeria and Afghanistan, our field teams meet countless children who have been killed or suffered life-altering injuries caused by landmines and other explosive weapons. We know that children are particularly vulnerable to death and lifelong deformities for a variety of reasons, including the size of their bodies, their closer proximity to the ground, and the reality that medical personnel do not often have the training to respond to blast injuries in children. At a time when the U.S government should be working to further limit the impact of conflict and better address children’s unique needs, the opposite is happening.
It is undeniable that the use of indiscriminate weapons in conflict has disproportionately killed and maimed thousands of children around the world. Continued use of these weapons will be met with the same results. We urge the U.S. government to reconsider this decision regarding the use of anti-personnel mines as it reverses crucial progress toward the protection of civilians and puts the lives of children in conflict further at risk.
In November 2019, Ireland launched a political process to draft and create a Political Declaration where states recognise the harm caused when explosive weapons that impact wide areas– including landmines – are used in towns and cities.
We urge all states to work to create and endorse a strong Declaration that avoids the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. Such a tool will generate and harness political momentum to tackle this devastating trend and be crucial for strengthening the protection of children and civilians in conflicts across the world.
*Figures from the Gaza Ministry of Health
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