(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Landmine victims need more help

Zaw Lwin, 42, lost his leg to a landmine 12 years ago in the eastern part of Myanmar's Bago Region. 34 of the country's 325 townships - home to 5.2 million people - are considered landmine-contaminated
Zin Win/IRIN

Activists in Nepal have accused the government of failing to provide adequate support for victims of landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Thousands of people were left crippled by landmines and IEDs in the decade-long armed conflict which ended in 2006 and left some 14,000 dead, said the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), a human rights group.

According to the Nepal Campaign to Ban Landmines (NCBL), over 5,000 people were left physically disabled as a result of landmines or IEDs.

“We have been advocating with the government to provide more long-term support and not just compensation to the victims. However, there has been very little response,” said anti-landmine activist and NCBL coordinator Purna Shova Chitrakar.

Most victims, many of them farmers in rural areas, lost their regular source of income and were reduced to poverty because of their inability to continue working, said NCBL.

Chitraka’s comments come more than six months after the UN declared Nepal mine-free - only the second country in Asia to be declared mine-free after China.

Since 2009, the government has been providing compensation to all disabled victims in the form of cash through its Relief and Rehabilitation Unit run by the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MoPR)

Under the scheme, recipients get a one-off payment of US$150-1,500, depending on the severity of the victim’s condition.

But while most victims have received compensation, many say the amount is barely enough to pay their medical bills, much less sustain their families.

“What about after that? How do they continue supporting their families who depended on their breadwinner who is now crippled for life?” asked Bhagwati Gautam, who lost her leg when she stepped on a mine in 2002, and has since then been trying to pressure the government to help disabled people.

“Real needs”

“When you speak of support, we have to identify the real needs of the disabled individuals,” said Florent Milesi, country director for Handicap International

“Each individual will have a specific need and this can be possible [to establish] after a full assessment by a professional,” he added.

“Sadly the research by the government has only focused on the number. There is nothing about their real needs,” said NCBL, citing social and economic rehabilitation as key in their ability to lead normal lives.

“Giving compensation does not end the responsibilities of the government,” said activist Gautam.

Government officials declined to comment on the plight of the country's landmine victims, while repeated efforts to reach officials from the MoPR, went unanswered.

nn/ds/cb

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