On 8 December 2005, the General Assembly declared that 4 April of each year shall be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. It called for continued efforts by States, with the assistance of the United Nations and relevant organizations, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.
Theme in 2018: Advancing Protection, Peace and Development
After nearly two decades of steadily diminishing casualty rates, the total number of people killed or injured by landmines and other explosive hazards in recent and current intensified conflicts has leapt to its highest since 1999; the human suffering caused by mines, explosive remnants of war and other explosive hazards, including “roadside bombs” or “booby traps”, is devastating. Mine action, including clearance, risk education and assistance to victims is critical for advancing protection, peace and development.
Locating, removing and destroying explosive hazards saves the lives of people living and working in, and in the aftermath of, conflict. Risk education provides people with crucial information to protect themselves. In 2017, in Iraq, over 44,000 explosive hazards were made safe by UNMAS, including 750 improvised explosive devices. So far, out of t5.8 million displaced Iraqis, over 3.2 million people have been able to return home, safe in the knowledge their homes are cleared of explosive hazards
Mine action is vital for enabling and sustaining peace. Cleared land, open roads, and assistance to victims are all examples of tangible peace dividends that can help civilians return to their normal lives, creating the opportunity for peace in the long-term. In South Sudan, six million people – around 56% of the population – are directly affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war. Last year over 1,000 infrastructure sites, including housing, markets, schools and water points were made safe for local communities to use.
The survey and clearance of explosive hazards enables economic development to flourish, In Afghanistan, over 21 square miles of land – roughly sixteen times the size of Central Park in New York City – has been cleared of explosive hazards in 2017 alone. New pistachio forests have been planted, wheat is growing on land once contaminated.