Colombia is one of 161 countries worldwide to have signed the 1997 Ottowa Agreement, declaring the use of landmines a human rights violation. And yet, landmines still feature prominently in the Colombian countryside, according to a report compiling 23 years of the devices’ reported effects in Colombia.
Since 1990, there have been close to 40,000 documented incidents involving landmines in Colombia, according to a report released this week by a presidential program designed to monitor and deal with Colombia’s landmine problem. The large majority of those incidents involved defective mines that did not detonate, but explosions have still left 10,519 documented victims as of August 31, 2013.
In the 23-year period analyzed by the presidential program, incidents involving landmines have occurred in 31 of 32 departments. 98% of all incidents took place in rural settings, but Colombia’s population is largely rural, and 65% of all Colombian municipalities have experienced landmine incidents since 1990.
Landmine victims since 1990
Civilian v Military
39% (4,052) of the 10,519 victims were civilians, while 61% (6,467) were members of the Colombian armed forces.
80% (8,369) of all victims were injured, while 20% (2,150) perished during the incidents, or from injuries resulting from them.
The rates of injury and death among the separate populations remained more or less constant, with 81% (3,269) of civilian victims and 79% (5,100) of military victims surviving with injuries, and 19% (783) and 21% (1,367) dying respectively.
Since January of 2013, 120 civilians reportedly fell victim to landmines, 107 of which escaped with injuries, and 13 of which passed away.
In the same timeframe, 18 members of the armed forces were killed by mines, and 147 injured.
Landmine injuries since 1990
Landmine fatalities since 1990
Just under 10% of all recorded mine victims were children. Children in rural areas often stumble upon landmines while playing, one of the more sympathetic arguments made during the buildup to the Ottawa Agreement.
Of the 1,041 underaged victims of landmines reported, 818 (79%) were injured, and 223 (21%) were killed, figures that keep with overall percentages for the general population.
22% (223) of the child victims were girls, and 77% (798) were boys, with gender information not available in 1% of cases. In Colombia, as in most of the world, the proportion of male to female is roughly equivalent. No explanations were offered as to the apparent skew of incident rates between the sexes, though one possible factor is the participation of boys in Colombia’s armed conflict as child soldiers.
In the ongoing calendar year, 33 injuries have been reported (10 girls, and 23 boys), along with 5 deaths (
The countryside is the traditional home of Colombia’s indigenous communities, which have suffered disproportionately from the decades-long armed conflict that has played out around them.
Accurate violence statistics are difficult to come by for these communities, many of which live in autonomous reserves, or isolated geographical areas.
Just over 3% (329) of all landmine victims belonged to indigenous tribes, which is almost directly proportional to official demographic proportions.
As opposed to the general population, however, 32% (100) of indigenous victims were killed in incidents, and 34% (110) were minor. The report did not specify whether this discrepancy was statistically significant.
While landmine incidents occurred across Colombia, victims were concentrated, not surprisingly in the departments most typically affected by the armed conflict.
Antioquia (2,331), Meta (1,072), Caqueta (816), Norte de Santander (748) and Narino (732) were the departments with the most number of victims, together accounting for over half of all landmine victims.
Meanwhile, the Vistahermosa (Meta, 348), Tame (Arauca, 321), San Vicente del Caguan (Caqueta, 235), Puerto Rico (Meta, 222) and Intuango (Antioquia, 214) municipalities were those that produced least victims.