One factor, omitted from UNIDIR’s EWIPA indicators, is the psychological impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. As highlighted in this report, aside from devastating physical injuries, psychological harm is likely the most common health impact inflicted by landmines. This can have huge knock-on effects on individuals, families and communities – from issues around education inaccessibility, due to fear of landmines, to less obvious impacts such as poor neonatal health stemming from stress due to the randomness of landmine detonations.
Whilst mental health conditions are harder to measure and quantify than physical injuries, this should not preclude an attempt to codify their link to the use of explosive weapons.
Another area not explored by UNIDIR’s EWIPA indicators is the extensive, and often long-standing, economic impacts brought about by explosive violence. The damage from landmines, combined with the fear of future attacks, can prevent economic development efforts.
Certainly, in rural communities, large areas of farmland are contaminated with landmines. As well as posing a risk to human life, it is common to lose livestock to landmines. Landmine contamination will also deter local development due to the difficulties of building on land, as well as precluding tourism. One study of Nagorno-Karabakh found that the presence of landmines reduced overall rural economic welfare by 45%.
Landmines as Containment
The issue of displacement is covered extensively as a reverberating effect of explosive weapons. However, it is worth noting how landmines, far more than any other weapon type, can have the effect of containing a population by preventing them from fleeing. For example, in Syria in 2015, regime-affiliated forces laid landmines around the town of Madaya to prevent people escaping the incoming aerial attacks.
Elsewhere, villagers in Myanmar were unable to escape, or were too scared to attempt to escape due to landmines being placed around their homes. The Saharawi people of Western Sahara have been forced into prolonged displacement in Algeria due to landmines laid around the separation berm built by Morocco in the 1980s. The berm, which has split families, is believed to contain some of the densest mine contamination in the world.
Perhaps it is worth incorporating into the indicators those that are stuck in-place due to explosive violence, not just those who are displaced.
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