Focus: Campaign of the week - Landmine Action steps up activity

Georgina Lock, georgina.lock@haynet.com

Nearly nine years after a masked Princess Diana was famously photographed in a minefield next to a warning sign bearing a skull and crossbones, landmines still kill or maim thousands of people each year.

Most of the victims are civilians and many are children. People in about 90 countries live in fear of these weapons. Although 154 countries are signatories to the Treaty to Ban Anti-Personnel Landmines, there is a long way to go before the world is rid of them.

This is the message from charity coalition Landmine Action, which launched its awareness week on Monday. This year, the week focuses on three key themes: calling for people to campaign against governments including India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka to stop producing anti-personnel mines; urging supporters to write to their MPs to demand that the UK Government meets its obligations under the Ottowa Treaty; and to encourage people to read up on anti-vehicle mines so they are ready to campaign next year.

Campaign packs have been sent to supporters, but the main focus of the campaign is a series of events to which journalists have been invited in a bid to get the message out as widely as possible.

Landmine Action Week kicked off with the screening of a film called Disarm at the Frontline Club in London. Disarm showed how millions of anti-personnel mines in a dozen countries continue to claim victims daily, despite a global ban.

Directed by Mary Wareham, the film features footage smuggled out of Burma, scenes from war-ravaged Colombia and Iraq, helmet camera footage shot by Afghan and Bosnian mine clearers, shots of warehouses stockpiling millions of Soviet-made mines and comments from Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams.

At lunchtime today, a workshop entitled 'Anti-vehicle mines and the delivery of aid' is being held at the London offices of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The workshop includes presentations and discussion on the humanitarian impact of anti-vehicle mines and the threat to aid agencies' staff and projects.

Representatives of Christian Aid, Merlin, Oxfam, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Goggs family will attend the workshop. Tim Goggs was killed in an anti-vehicle mine incident when working as an aid worker in Afghanistan in 1992.

In the evening, the Frontline Club will host an exhibition of photographs from Western Sahara to help raise awareness and funds.

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