Landmine casualties up despite record clearing
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GENEVA (Reuters) - A record area was cleared of landmines worldwide last year, but casualties caused by the weapons rose by 11 percent to 7,328, with almost all the victims civilians, many of them children, a report said on Wednesday.
Despite stepped-up clearance work, efforts to implement a 1997 international treaty banning the use of the anti-personnel weapons could slow without higher levels of funding, according to the Land mine Monitor Report 2006.
"Families affected by landmines want to see words become reality: they want to walk, play and live without fear, once and for all," said Sylvie Brigot, executive director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), one of the humanitarian groups which produces the annual report.
Rebel groups are the largest users, with Myanmar being the country where government forces are known to have planted mines over the past year, authors of the report told journalists.
Children account for 20 percent of the victims reported in nearly 60 countries.
"We continue to believe the true number is at least two times this (the reported figure)," said Steve Goose of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
"The longer states take to clear these mines, the longer these mines wait in the ground for innocent civilians to step on," said Jody Williams, ICBL ambassador and 1997 Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate for her work in setting up the movement.
The total area cleared in 2005 was 740 square kilometers (300 square miles), approximately the size of New York City.
Some 470,000 landmines, including about 450,000 anti-personnel mines, and 3.75 million explosive devices were removed.
But funds for de-mining and for assisting victims fell for the first time since the treaty came into force to $376 million, $23 million less than in the previous year, the report said.
The European Union, the United States and eight other major donors cut back on help for de-mining activities.
The steepest reductions were seen in Iraq, down 53 percent at $30.9 million, followed by Afghanistan and Cambodia.
The United States, Russia and China, all major arms producers, are not signatories to the pact.
To learn more about the campaign to ban landmines visit the International Campaign to Ban Landmines website