A sign that reads: ‘In this surrounding there are mines’. Increased awareness of dangers is an important step for reducing the risk of injury and death from mines & ERW

DDG STUDY AIMS TO COUNTER RISE IN VICTIMS FROM MINES IN MYANMAR

The number of victims from mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) has risen by 58% in Myanmar, according to the Mine Risk Working Group. The risk of accidents is heightened for those living in rural areas and in poverty. “Documenting victims’ profiles and risk behaviours is essential for preventing further accidents”, says Danish Demining Group (DDG) Program Manager in Myanmar, Pascal Simon.
 
 

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In Myanmar, most landmine casualties have been in Kachin, Kayah and Northern Shan States (NSS), where there has also historically been the least amount of information about victims. “The Mine Action sector requires a proper Victim Information System to provide a more accurate picture of accidents”, says Simon, who conducted a study which aims to fill the gap in research. “It provides more information about the dangerous behaviour of victims and at-risk groups”. This will allow DDG and other organisations to tailor victim assistance and risk education so that it is more effective.

The study found that the groups most at-risk of accidents were rural, low-income people of all ages, particularly during periods of armed conflict. “From the study, we know that adult males are more at risk than women and children. We understand that many victims did not know the areas they visit can be dangerous but they are forced to visit them because of livelihood necessity”, describes Simon. Respondents’ perception of danger was also distorted by poverty and financial necessity, which led to unsafe behaviours.

“We have also documented that internally displaced persons (IDPs) are more at risk than settled villagers because they travel back to their former villages to cultivate their land and tend their animals, while those particular villages have a high probability of being contaminated by landmines and other ERW”, says Simon. In Kachin State, IDPs were over nine times more at-risk than settled villagers.  

Mine and ERW accidents cause extreme livelihood hardship for victims and their families. According to the study, the fatality rate of victims was 24%, and nearly two-thirds of survivors had to stop their routine activities because of disability. This led to an unemployment rate of 60% for victims. In response, Simon describes how “the results of the study will help us to develop new Risk Education materials targeting the most vulnerable groups. We will also review our victim assistance activities to provide more adapted livelihood assistance to landmine victims and their families”.

This can include the support of home-based livelihood activities for victims and their families, helping them to avoid travelling to hazardous areas, or for IDPs, to avoid returning to conflict areas. “As most victims have to abandon their traditional profession, we try to provide vocational training and other alternative livelihood solutions”, says Simon.

The strengthening of Risk Education in areas of need, including sessions in IDP camps and villages, will also help reduce risk. Respondents of the study emphasised that receiving Risk Education “increases awareness about the dangers of landmines and can reduce casualties”.

In the past, such a study has been difficult to complete, says Simon: “Because of the sensitivity about landmines due to the ongoing conflict, some victims are not identified and those who live along border areas often go to China and Thailand for medical and rehabilitation support. In addition, it is likely that many people who have an accident in isolated areas such as forests, will die in the accident location without being noticed”. 

DDG has been present in Myanmar since 2013 via its parent organisation, the Danish Refugee Council. DDG seeks to address the threat posed by landmine contamination to civilians, resulting from decades of ongoing civil strife.

Read the full study in the Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction