Danish Demining Group provides direct assistance to landmine victims in Myanmar

September 2014. One afternoon, Aung San (name changed) was asked by the village leader to assist with others in cleaning the roadside from bushes. While Aung San was working, she suddenly heard a loud explosion and fell unconscious to the ground. Few hours later she woke up in the neighboring village clinic, and was told that she had set off a landmine. One consequence of the accident is that she got a piece of metal stuck in the neck and the village clinic did not have the right equipment to remove it.
 
 

September 2014. One afternoon, Aung San (name changed) was asked by the village leader to assist with others in cleaning the roadside from bushes. While Aung San was working, she suddenly heard a loud explosion and fell unconscious to the ground. Few hours later she woke up in the neighboring village clinic, and was told that she had set off a landmine. One consequence of the accident is that she got a piece of metal stuck in the neck and the village clinic did not have the right equipment to remove it.

“I was too weak and got very depressed when I realized that I will be partly immobilized and have to live with the metal piece in my body for the rest of my life.”

Upon hearing of the landmine accident, the camp manager at Mai Hkawng IDP camp came to visit the clinic the day after and informed Aung San about the work DRC/DDG is doing in the region in providing Mine Risk Education (MRE) and assisting people that have been victims of landmines. The removal of landmines and UXO (unexploded ordnance) by third parties is currently not authorized in Myanmar, so the DRC/DDG activities in the country is among other things to focus on awareness rising, and the provision of assistance to landmine victims.

“I felt happiness and delight knowing that there was an organization that is helping people like me. Two days later I was taken to the hospital by my family and the camp manager with assistance of DRC/DDG. Later, and accompanied by a special nurse, my elder sister and another relative as caretakers they also arranged for my transportation to a hospital in Mandalay, I would not have been able to reach Mandalay by myself as I wasn’t able to move and still shocked about what had happened.

There are around 100 000 internally displaced people in need of protection assistance in the Kachin region located in the northern part of Myanmar. The population have been exposed to increased fighting and instability, resulting in heightened levels of vulnerability and exposure to landmines. In most cases, accidents happen because people are forced to move from their home villages or the IDP camp to maintain their livelihoods and make a living. DRC/DDG estimates that in the area the organisation are working in, internally displaced persons account for approximately 50% of the landmine victims.

DRC/DDG has recorded an increase in the number of landmine victims in 2014, creating an increased need/request for assistance to landmine survivors that are currently not covered in Kachin. Considering the difficult terrain, lack of infrastructure, immobility of landmine survivors and poor medical services in the target areas, the assistance is much needed.

With the challenging working conditions and the scarce resources currently available, DRC/DDG has set up priorities in assisting the landmine survivors to access services such as clinics and hospitals, supporting families, taking the landmine survivor to facilities that provide prosthetic limbs if necessary, and finally helping them to reintegrate to their home community when they get back home.

“I am very grateful for what DRC/DDG has done for me and what they do for others in informing of the risk of landmines through their Mine Risk Education campaigns and the assistance they provide to victims of landmines. The regular follow up telephone calls while hospitalized in Mandalay really encouraged me to stay strong during this difficult period and I sincerely wish that DRC/DDG will continue its work to reduce the risk from landmines since so many people suffer from the legacy of war. “

The doctors finally concluded that a surgery would be too dangerous for Aung San and decided not to remove the metal piece from her neck. After two weeks of recovery, she was allowed to leave the hospital and go home.

“I am getting better, but I am still suffering from my injury and have difficulties in drinking and eating, but I am optimistic about my progress and believe that I will be able to resume a normal life in the future. I would like to say to those who live around the fighting to always stay vigilant and avoid areas that are contaminated by landmines. I also would like to say to those who suffer like me that keep in mind that we are not alone”.

 

DRC/DDG has registered 35 landmine and ERW accidents, involving 74 people, in the areas where the organisation works in Kachin in 2014 alone. The actual number of landmine accidents is believed to be much higher. DRC / DDG has been implementing mine action activities in Myanmar since 2013 and up to this day it is one of the few organizations in Kachin supporting landmine victims and their families, through mine risk education and direct assistance to the victims.