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Third Annual International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action
The United States joined the world in observing the third annual International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4, 2008, to help draw attention to the global landmine problem. Several U.S. embassies hosted a variety of
The United States joined the world in observing the third annual International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4, 2008, to help draw attention to the global landmine problem. Several U.S. embassies hosted a variety of events and discussions designed to increase awareness and update the public on recent mine action initiatives.

According to United Nations officials, landmines kill or injure thousands of people per year. These explosive devices are used as defense mechanisms to enforce border control or restrict enemy movement in times of conflict. Unfortunately, many landmines are lost or forgotten in the years following the conflict and continue to claim innocent victims. Three of every four landmine casualties are civilians, and more than a third of the victims are children.

In 1993, the United States established the inter-agency U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) Program, the world's largest such program, and has invested over $1.2 billion to clear mines, foster mine risk education, render assistance to mine survivors, train foreign deminers, and advance mine clearance techniques.

Currently, the United States is involved in providing assistance for several countries in Africa, including Angola, Chad, Eritrea, Liberia, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, and Sudan.

The Defense Department portion of the program is administered by military regional commanders, with responsibility for the programs in Africa transferring from U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command to U.S. Africa Command.

The U.S. Defense Department's program "concentrates on training host nations in the procedures of landmine clearance, mine risk education, and victims' assistance," according to a fact sheet by the Defense Department's Office of Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief and Mine Action, which is part of Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The ultimate goal is to assist each country in becoming "mine impact-free," which means that all explosive hazards have been cleared and the country now has the capacity to deal effectively with any remaining mines that may be found. Countries that have recently achieved "Impact free" status include Costa Rica, Djibouti, Guatemala, Honduras, Kosovo, Macedonia, Namibia, and Suriname.

Clearing mines is a slow, laborious, and dangerous task. To initiate the process, a Landmine Impact Survey is used to determine the specific nature and extent of the effect of landmines in a specific country. From this survey, broad areas are mapped. A variety of methods are used to identify the specific location of the mines, including metal-detectors, hand-held probes, and mine detecting dogs. Once found, mines are not removed from their location. Rather, they are left in place, marked, and destroyed.

Unfortunately, even with advanced mine-detection techniques, the precise location of the majority of landmines in the ground today is unknown. For this reason, Mine Risk Education is an important program within the HMA. As part of this initiative, mine risk educators teach people how to recognize and avoid landmines and they teach children about the dangers of picking up or playing with strange metal or plastic objects.

The efforts of the U.S Humanitarian Mine Action Program are reflected in a major decrease in the number of landmine and explosive remnants of war casualties around the world. From an estimated 26,000 casualties four years ago, 5,751 were reported worldwide in 2006. By working together, the U.S., other donors, and the mine action community can continue working toward an impact-free world.

Related content: AFRICOM Dialogue - Humanitarian Mine Action Program
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