International Landmine Awareness Day is commemorated on April 4, to draw attention to global efforts to remove landmines from the many regions in the world where they still pose a danger.
Landmines mark the lines of many of the world’s most bitterly entrenched conflicts. Left behind after long-finished wars, they pose a grave to anyone who may be walking on a road, to a farmer or to children playing in a field.
Why are landmines so dangerous?
Cambodian leader Pol Pot – whose Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for the killing of some 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s – is believed to have once said, "Landmines are the perfect soldiers. They never sleep. They wait, with limitless patience."
It only takes one landmine in a hundred acres of empty or low-use land area to render the entire vicinity dangerous – effectively displacing the population and creating refugees.
The UN estimates that landmines kill around 5,000 people every year, and injure 15,000 to 20,000. Unsuspecting victims who step on an unexploded mine can easily lose their legs, or be maimed or disfigured by exploding shrapnel.
What's being done about them?
The 1995 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty was signed by 128 countries that pledged to put an end to the use of mines as a weapon of war due to the liability they pose in times of peace. Since then, "mine action" efforts have successfully cleared minefields in 30 countries.
Landmines are removed using metal detectors, specially-trained rats, dogs, and even by drone. But as these methods often can be too costly for poor, remote communities affected by landmines, some have come up with creative ways to address the problem: