Danish Demining Group provides direct assistance to landmine victims in Myanmar

One afternoon, Aung San* 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 to the ground, unconscious. A 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 her neck and the village clinic did not have the right equipment to remove it.
 
 

05.06.15

“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", Aung described. 

Upon hearing of the landmine accident, the camp manager at Mai Hkawng Internally Displace People (IDP) camp came to visit the clinic the day after and informed Aung about the work the Danish Demining Group (DDG) and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) are 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 DDG/DRC activities focus on awareness raising 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 DDG/DRC. 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 has 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 an IDP camp to maintain their livelihoods and make a living. DDG/DRC estimates that in the area the organisation are working in, IDP account for approximately 50% of landmine victims.

DDG/DRC has recorded an increase in the number of landmine victims in 2014, creating an increased need for assistance to landmine survivors that are currently not assisted 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, DDG/DRC has prioritized assisting landmine survivors to access services such as clinics and hospitals, supporting families, taking landmine survivors to facilities that provide prosthetic limbs, if necessary, and finally, helping them reintegrate in their home community when they return.

“I am very grateful for what DDG/DRC has done for me and what they do for others in informing of the risk of landmines through their Mine Risk Education (MRE) 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 DDG/DRC 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 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 to keep in mind that we are not alone".

DDG/DRC has registered 35 landmine and Explosive Remnants of War (ERC) accidents involving 74 people, in the areas where the organization works in Kachin in 2014 alone. The actual number of landmine accidents if believed to be much higher. DDG/DRC has been implementing mine action actitivies in Mynamnar since 2013 and up to this day it is one of the few organizations in Kachin supporting landmine victims and their families, through MRE and direct assistance to the victims.

*Name changed.