Too little medical help for land mine victims in Africa
September 2, 1997
Web posted at: 4:13 p.m. EDT (2013 GMT)
OSLO, Norway (CNN) -- An international conference on land mines heard calls by the United States on Tuesday for exceptions to a proposed global ban on the lethal weapons.
The U.S. delegate Eric Newson told delegates from more than 100 nations that Washington wanted to keep land mines as an integral part of military defense installations in the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea, which are technically still at war.
However, delegates from several other countries, including Germany and France, criticized the U.S. position, saying exceptions would devalue an accord since it would no longer be a truly global ban.
Experts estimate that, on average, land mines cause a death or injury somewhere in the world every 20 minutes and that about 26,000 people are maimed or killed by land mines each year.
A great number of the victims of anti-personnel mines are in African nations such as Uganda, where hundreds of women were crippled by land mines last year. Often, these women became the unsuspecting victims of land mines while on their way to work their fields.
"The problem with land mines is that they exist long after conflicts have ended. Land mines exist in rural areas, they exist in places where there's poor health structure, and there's just not enough done in order to treat those people who are wounded by land mines," Geoff Loane, a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told CNN in Nairobi, Kenya.
Children, too, often become the victims of the deadly devices.
George is one such victim: he is condemned to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Even though many of the land mine victims are in Africa, there are few places on that continent where they can turn for help.
One hospital in the Kenyan capital Nairobi is trying to make a difference, and manufactures artificial limbs, based on a Red Cross design, with sponge, rubber, leather and plastic.
The hospital is expanding and will try to improve care for mine victims by training more staff and helping more amputees throughout the region.
This aid will allow some victims to return to a relatively normal life. But unless much more aid is provided, and unless land mines are finally banned, many more people will be killed or face years of hardship and suffering.
Correspondent Catherine Bond contributed to this report.