Medical Care Programmes as Critical Part of the Mine Ban Treaty

February 26, 2009

Anti Personnel landmines are one of the most widespread military threats to human beings. Each year, between 15,000 to 20,000 victims of these weapons are registered in 75 countries.

AP landmines are not designed to kill but to maim, and survivors typically require long term medical treatment and rehabilitation. Therefore, since the major impact of AP landmine threats resides in fragile countries with low medical resources, medical improvements in affected countries are especially needed. Thus, the International Community’s responsibilities go further than the simple location and elimination of landmines, as they must also give infrastructural support to raise medical treatment qualities in affected states.

Hence, well planned humanitarian aid, distributed at the right time and in a proper way, is needed to help affected countries on a long term basis. For example, let’s take the case of Burundi. It received almost US$7 millions from humanitarian aid for victim assistance in 2005. But in 2006 the Burundi government acknowledged that victim assistance was the weakest link in the chain and that much had to be done still. Moreover, in the same year, emergency care at the sites of mine incidents together with prompt transportation to health facilities were reported as virtually non-existent.

Furthermore, many hospitals in Burundi don’t have the necessary staff or equipment to assist AP landmines emergencies. There are no orthopedic surgeons in Burundi. Only 5 hospitals can provide the adequate treatment for AP landmines causalities but 4 of them are located in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. Thus, many of the serious mine incidents are treated in Kenya or South Africa.

We think that States should not only provide resources to locate and destroy AP Landmines, but also establish better quality of life to the people harmed by these weapons. Victims must be readopted to society and given back their human dignity. Handicap International (HI) has been working hard to support rehabilitation programs for disabled people. In 2006,  HI greatly contributed to the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities in Burundi. For example, it worked at creating partnerships with official authorities in charge of social matters in order to improve the conditions of disabled people, having for objectives to set up a convention of the rights of disabled people, create a solidarity fund to finance rehabilitation costs, and update the index of backing organizations for people with disabilities.

The Burundi situation is very intricate in that it is due to become the first mine-affected country in the world to be declared free from landmines; it was also declared the poorest country on earth by the World Bank in 2006. Would improved access to medical care for disabled people help the people of Burundi meet better living standards? How can we design humanitarian aid programs that really help the development of Burundi in the long-run?

— Adrián Gutiérrez and Zayra Lopez


4 Responses to “Medical Care Programmes as Critical Part of the Mine Ban Treaty”

  1. petrolhead98 Says:

    Hello Adrian and Zayra,

    I think that your analysis of the problems that Burundi faces in addressing victim support shows an intrinsic problem with the land mine treaty.

    It has had near universal support, but the problem is the differing levels of economic development. The difficulty of Burundi in providing a health service that can meet the needs of land mine victims goes beyond the land mine problem.

    You cite Burundi as being close to becoming the first mine affected state in the world to be declared free of land mines. This is a source of hope. Resources that are devoted to this task can be transferred to victim support in the future. But I do not think Burundi is capable of being completely successful in both at the same time without greater outside support.

    This leads into my response to your final question. Would a greater HI program help the development of Burundi in the long run? I believe we are in agreement that this is the root of the problem, and undoubtedly it would help.

    But the “how” has implications for the entire developing world, and there are so many contested designs for these programs.

    Frankly, I am not sure which one I think would do the best job. But I think that the G8 could make a limited start by meeting their existing aid commitments, and very modest ones at that. Then there would be an improved foundation for a new design.


    Matthew Clayton

  2. adriangtz Says:

    Hi Mathew!
    Thanks for elaborating!!

    We agree that one of the principal hindrances for the success of demining and victim assistance programmes is the low economic development in affected countries.

    Therefore, as you said, outside support is needed to raise financial support for the mine clearence. In this matters, the G8 has stated important objectives by the Birmingham Summit to “Strengthen the international financial support for the de-mining of anti-personnel landmines in the wake of the Ottawa Treaty”. Even the US has already stated its willingness to support demining financial support funds in its “De-mining 2010 Initiative”.

    Adrián Gutiérrez and Zayra Lopez

  3. Angie Chan Nga Ki Says:

    Dear Adrian and Zayra,

    Thank you for the informative post. Burundi is a great example in the sense that it will soon become the first mine-affected country to be declared free from mines. It could provide a model to follow of how to strengthen the ‘weakest link’, after dealing with the seemingly more urgent task of removing landmines. Now all funds can be channeled towards victim assistance.

    While your post highlighted the lack of medical facilities, the previous post emphasized the problem of discrimination against landmine victims. I believe a holistic approach to victim assistance is needed, including social, medical, legal, financial needs. The work of Handicap International seems positive. On the other hand, the state should also make it a priority to improve the situation of victims. To accomplish that, international aid is crucial. It’s great to hear that the G8 and the US will be contributing more. In fact, what is important is to at least maintain the assistance to Burundi – the job is not done by removing all the mines. Moreover, a wider range of donors can be sought after. Hopefully, as China and other developing countries continue to increase in prosperity, they will be willing to assist other countries in need.


  4. adriangtz Says:

    Hi Angie!

    Thank you for the post! We agree with you that a “holistic” assistance to AP Landmine victims is needed. Not only because they need medical rehabilitation, but because, as you say, they need political, social, legal and financial support. Something important is that they need to get their dignity back and to be considered as an integrated part of society.

    As you, we believe that the job in Burundi isn’t finished. While it’s the first mine affected country to be declared free from mines, medical services for the survivors is meager. Thus, developed and developing countries in possibility of helping should give more financial assistance to improve the survivors’ quality of life.

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