Yemen Among Worst-Hit: Landmine and Explosives Contamination Threatens Lives
Yemen, a nation torn apart by a brutal civil war that has raged for nine long years, is grappling with a hidden menace that continues to threaten its people – landmines and unexploded ordnance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has issued a stark warning about the extent of contamination, highlighting that Yemen is among the three worst-affected countries globally. Despite a recent ceasefire and diplomatic efforts, the deadly legacy of conflict still looms large, endangering lives and livelihoods.
The Landmine Crisis
Yemen’s tragic descent into chaos began in 2014 when Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, captured the capital city. The conflict escalated, leading to a devastating humanitarian crisis and untold suffering. Amid this turmoil, landmines and other explosive remnants of war have proliferated, creating a daily hazard for Yemen’s population. Experts estimate that over one million mines have been planted during the conflict, posing a severe threat to people’s safety and their ability to make a living. ICRC’s Near and Middle East regional director, Fabrizio Carboni, has emphasized Yemen’s dire situation, comparing it to Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of weapon contamination. The impact on people’s lives is profound, as the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance creates a constant danger that affects their safety and livelihoods.
Human Cost and Casualties
The toll of landmines and unexploded shells on Yemeni civilians has been staggering. Over the past five years, these deadly remnants of war have caused 1,469 civilian casualties, according to the UN-linked Civilian Impact Monitoring Project. These casualties not only result from direct explosions but also include the indirect consequences, such as famine and disrupted access to resources.
A particularly alarming finding is the impact on Yemen’s agriculture-dependent communities. The ICRC’s research reveals that 20 percent of livestock owners near frontlines have reported explosives contamination on their land. Additionally, 70 percent of shepherds have lost animals to landmines and other explosives. This contamination not only threatens human lives but also disrupts the nation’s food supply and economy.
Challenges to Clearing Explosives
While a UN-brokered ceasefire in April 2022 and regional diplomacy have brought a semblance of calm to Yemen, the legacy of landmines and explosives endures. Even in the event of lasting peace, the process of clearing these deadly remnants would be a long and arduous one, requiring substantial resources, expertise, and machinery. Experts suggest that it could take decades to rid Yemen of these hazards.
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the ICRC has embarked on a mission to raise awareness and train communities about the risks associated with unexploded ordnance. They also work to coordinate clearance efforts with various authorities and partners. Furthermore, the ICRC is committed to identifying and returning the remains of fighters from both sides of the conflict, emphasizing the importance of closure for families.
Despite the daunting challenges posed by landmine contamination, Yemen has seen glimmers of hope. Diplomatic efforts, including a Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, have sparked optimism for lasting peace. However, the shadow of landmines serves as a stark reminder of the long road ahead for Yemen’s recovery.
Subscribe to BNN Breaking
Sign up for our daily newsletter covering global breaking news around the world.