The Problem: Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)
Landmines have been called “the perfect soldier” because they can lie hidden in the ground or vegetation for years even after a conflict has ended, out of sight, until a victim triggers one and it explodes. They are usually laid in strategic areas by parties in war or conflict, in order to protect military positions, important infrastructure, or to deny access to enemy forces; however, they are sometimes use to terrorise civilian populations.
Landmines can be classified as anti-personnel or anti-vehicle. Most anti-personnel mines are designed to be victim-activated, either by a person or animal stepping on them or by triggering them with a tripwire. Anti-vehicle mines are designed to explode when a vehicle drives over them on a road or access route.
Unfortunately, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines cannot distinguish between military and non-military targets, meaning that innocent civilians and regular vehicles, such as cars and trucks indiscriminately, become victims of these explosive weapons.
Landmines do not just have an impact on people’s lives and limbs- the fear of their presence also prevents people from using potentially productive agricultural land, or from rebuilding important infrastructure. The fear of landmines can also block access to vital resources when they are laid on paths, such as water or firewood; or block vehicle access on roads, preventing services from reaching communities and the access of those communities to vital economic markets.
Explosive Remnants of War
Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) refers to explosive munitions left behind after a conflict has ended, and includes both Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and Abandoned Explosive Ordnance (AXO). UXO refers to bombs, rockets, grenades, mortars and other types of explosive weapons which have failed to explode when fired or on impact, and lie on the ground in a dangerous, sensitive state, able to explode at any moment. A single UXO explosion often causes multiple casualties, and civilian accidents from UXO are a more serious problem than accidents from landmines in many countries because of their prevalence.
AXO refers to unused munitions left behind when a conflict ends which are no longer under the control of the combatants who left them there. These abandoned munitions pose a serious problem in post-conflict countries, as they are frequently not stored properly and are often not under the control of official security forces. This increases the risk of unplanned explosions and weapons proliferation to non-state armed groups.