Nepal marks 5th Int'l Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action

11:36, April 05, 2010      

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Almost four years after the commencement of peace process in Nepal, it has now cleared half the minefields laid during its decade-long armed conflict, helping the country secure a lasting peace, according to Nepali government.

Highlighting the efforts made by the government in eliminating the threats of landmines and explosive remnants of war, Nepali Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Rakam Chemjong said that there has been impressive progress in mine clearance, mine risk education and victim assistance in Nepal.

On the occasion to mark the 5th International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on Sunday, Chemjong said that in partnership with an active mine action community comprising government actors, United Nations and civil society, Nepal has achieved a positive improvement on clearance of mines.

Chemjong applauded the continued progress of Nepal Army toward clearing all of the mine fields laid during a decade-long armed conflict and the completed demolition of dangerous explosive items held in the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN-M)'s seven cantonments.

"Mine action constitutes one of the priority areas in our peace building process. The Comprehensive Peace Accord, signed between the government and UCPN-M spells out clear commitment to the mine action and commensurate assistance to the victims," Chemjong added.

However, according to UNICEF, after the decade-long insurgency in Nepal, which started from 1996 and ended in 2006, more than 262 casualties resulted from landmines and explosive remnants of war. Out of the 262 casualties, 143 were children, 19 of them killed.

"As we know, during the decade-long conflict in Nepal, thousands of men, women and children were victims of explosives devices. Many lost their lives and many more were maimed," said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF representative to Nepal.

Addressing the press conference organized by Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Mellsop said that mines and explosive remnants of the conflict continue to maim and kill individuals, years after the hostilities have ceased.

"It is a sad fact that in all the countries "infected" with explosive remnants of war, it is the young and curious children who become most vulnerable to mines and other explosives during the post-conflict period. It is therefore not surprising to learn that in Nepal the percentage of child victims is increasing and, alarmingly, the age is also becoming younger," said Mellsop.

She also added that two weeks ago in Sunari district, some 220 km southeast of capital Kathmandu, five boys and one girl between the age of 8 and 13 were severely injured when an object that they had picked up to play with exploded.

However, Chemjong said that mine action constitutes one of the priority areas in Nepali government's peace building process.

"The Comprehensive Peace Accord, signed between Nepali government and UCPN-M spells out clear commitment to clearance of mines and other dangerous explosive items," he said, adding that " We are continuously engaged in implementing those commitments."

Nepali government established an inter-ministerial Steering Committee in 2007 chaired by minister for Peace and Reconstruction, and a National Mine Action Technical Committee to take responsibilities of all policy as well as implementing matters relating to mine action.

To support a more direct role in the day-to-day management of mine action activities, a separate Mine Action Unit has recently been established in Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction to coordinate mine action activities as a focal point for mine action.

The Nepal Army demining platoons, with support from the United Nations Mine Action Team have cleared 26 out of 53 minefields with plans to complete clearance of the remaining half by the end of 2011.

A total of 52,617 improvised explosive devices and other dangerous items have been destroyed by UN Mine Action Team since the beginning of demolitions in 2007, according to UNICEF.

Source: Xinhua<i/>
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