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Landmines: the deadly legacy of conflict

Landmines in Angola (Credit: Lynn Hilton / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 min read

Today world leaders meet to discuss how best to support Ukraine’s recovery, even while the conflict itself continues.

While many are rightly focused on the need to provide the equipment Ukraine requires to repel Russian aggression, it is vital we remember that the impacts of conflict will not be over the day Russian forces leave Ukrainian territory. The use of landmines and other explosive ordnance – which some estimates say could cover an area larger than that of the whole of the UK – means that the risk of injury, death and destruction will continue years or even decades after the conflict ends. 

We know this is true as we have seen the same thing happen in countries around the world. British demining charity MAG has been clearing unexploded ordnance in Iraq for more than 30 years, where families are unable to return to villages impacted by the conflict of the 1980s. Communities in Angola are today still living with the legacy of landmines, more than 25 years since Princess Diana made headline news walking through a minefield. Farmers in Laos remain unable to grow food on land contaminated by bombs dropped over 50 years ago during the Vietnam war.

The Landmine Monitor reports that on average 15 people every day are killed or injured by landmines or unexploded ordnance

As Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, I had the great pleasure of announcing that British territory was at last free from landmines when clearance of the Falkland Islands was completed in December 2020 – almost 40 years on from the conflict with Argentina. 

The Landmine Monitor reports that on average 15 people every day are killed or injured by landmines or unexploded ordnance, and shockingly, half of the civilian casualties are children. People in 60 countries worldwide face the daily risk posed by such unexploded ordnance, much of it left after conflicts that have long moved from the headlines into the history books. These are lost decades in which fertile land has gone unfarmed, children have missed out on education, economies have struggled to revive, and people have suffered avoidable injury and death.

In a world where there is always a new crisis or conflict to command our attention, we must make sure the Ukrainian people know that the international community will continue to stand by them for as long as is necessary, that we will work alongside their brave and resilient people to support them in making their lands, their infrastructure and their homes safe again, and that we will help them to build the capacity for sustainable long-term post-conflict landmine clearance and recovery. 

We can do this both by making our intentions plain at today’s conference, and also by ensuring that the communities around the world who live in the shadow of other conflicts know that Britain will be there to help them recover, rebuild and prosper.  

Wendy Morton, Conservative MP for Aldridge-Brownhills


 

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