The lights dim. A hush settles over the audience. An international campaign to outlaw landmines takes center stage. Humanity is taking steps to control its own destiny, motivated by compassion for landmine victims and in reaffirmation of the basic human right to live a full and happy life without fear that the next day could be the last. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is endeavoring to force the world to restore the lives of those who have been injured by these incapacitating instruments of destruction. It is the responsibility of all nations to recognize, by examining the human need demonstrated by landmine survivors, that the most devastating weapon of war the world has ever known must be outlawed.
The effects of landmines on individual populations and entire countries are disastrous. Even a murmured whisper that landmines might be nearby causes residents to flee. Whole communities become uninhabitable. People abandon their fields, their homes, their lives, their dreams. They leave behind all they have worked for, bearing only what they can carry. Some never return.
Residents are afraid--afraid that the verdant, beckoning fields that are their livelihood may conceal hidden terrors. They don't dare allow their children to play outside; their children may not come home. They live in fear that their very lives and the lives of their families will be torn apart by an unsuspected blast from a landmine.
One in every 236 Cambodians has forfeited a limb to a mine, one in every 420 Angolans. Imagine living in Angola, a country that has been wracked by civil conflict for the last twenty years. Imagine you live in Quicunzo, the Angolan heart of a formerly thriving Portuguese banana-producing community. Quicunzo is isolated; its only link with the outside world is one safe road that leads to Luanda, the Angolan capital. It takes seven hours to travel that road--seven hours to travel 120 miles to the nearest hospital. The carcasses of trucks that litter the roadside remain a silent testament to the lives lost to landmines on that seven-hour trip.
Quicunzo is a prime example of another debilitating effect of landmines: lack of redevelopment. Because of the landmines, nations are hampered from reconstruction after a conflict has ended. Roads, bridges, and power lines are primary targets for landmines. Schoolyards and farmlands are also essential objectives for those who lay the destructive devices. Mines disrupt development of...