Deaths, injuries from landmines and IEDs hit 10-year high in 2015, report finds

The number of people killed and injured by landmines and improvised explosive devices has hit an alarming 10-year high, as international funding to clear mines has sunk to the lowest level in a decade, a new report finds.

Canada regains spot in top 10 donor countries helping to clear mines and aid victims

Indian Army soldiers use detectors to de-mine a field near the India-Pakistan border in 2015. Due to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Libya and Yemen, there was an increase in casualties recorded in 2015. (Channie Anand/The Associated Press)

The number of people killed and injured by landmines and improvised explosive devices has hit an alarming 10-year high, as international funding to clear mines has sunk to the lowest level in a decade, a new report finds.

Armed conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen led to the "sharp spike" in deaths, according to the Landmine Monitor 2016 of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

In 2015, the organization recorded 6,461 victims, a 75 per cent increase from the year before and the highest recorded total since 2006. The majority of those victims, 78 per cent, were civilians.

The spike comes as Canada's funding for "mine action," which includes clearing mined areas, destroying stockpiles, assisting victims and raising awareness around risks, increased by almost $3 million last year. That's up 35 per cent from the year earlier and brings total funding to $11.5 million.

The increase puts Canada back into the top 10 donors at a time when international contributions fell to the lowest level in 10 years. Thirty-five donors contributed $340.1 million in international support for mine action to 41 states and three other areas, the first time since 2005 that international support slipped below $400 million. 

"We would like to see, with Canada returning to a top-10 donor, … it become a top-five donor and again become a political and diplomatic leader on this issue," said Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada.

He hopes to see the job finished by 2025, which is the goal set by signatories to the Ottawa Treaty.

20 years since treaty talks

Last month, former activists, negotiators and three foreign affairs ministers past and present gathered in Toronto to mark 20 years since representatives from 75 countries met in Ottawa to kick off negotiations that led to the historic treaty banning landmines.

Then-prime minister Jean Chretien, right, hands over the signed Global Ban on Landmines treaty to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan while Foreign Affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, centre, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross Cornelio Sommaruga and Nobel Prize laureate Jody Williams, left, applaud in Ottawa in 1997. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

That treaty has now been signed by 162 countries, and 30 countries once contaminated with the deadly devices have become mine-free. 

Hannon said before the treaty was signed, there were an estimated 20,000 to 22,000 casualties per year, or at least 55 per day.

Due to increased conflict in Syria, continuing conflict in Ukraine and new conflicts in Libya and Yemen, there has been an increase in casualties recorded in 2015. 

Trend or one-time spike?

The average now is about 17 per day, but it's not known at this point if the recorded figures in the 2016 report are the start of a new trend upwards or a one-time increase, Hannon told CBC News.

The report notes the escalating use of landmines and booby traps by militant groups including ISIS in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria. In the case of Iraq, the number of related deaths and injuries is likely under-recorded due to complexities of accurately reporting, it says.

Among the report's other key findings:

  • The Monitor recorded but could not independently verify allegations of new mine use in treaty parties Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Philippines and the Tunisia, and in non-treaty parties Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  • The number of countries with confirmed mine contamination rose in 2015 due to new use of antipersonnel mines in Nigeria and new data on contamination in Palau and Mozambique.
  • In 2015 children accounted for 38 per cent of all civilian casualties where the age was known. Women and girls made up 14 per cent of casualties where the sex was known.
  • Belarus, Greece and Ukraine remain in violation of the treaty after having failed to complete the destruction of their stockpiles by their four-year deadline.
  • Only 11 countries are currently identified as potential producers, but just four are most likely actively producing: India, Myanmar, Pakistan and South Korea.