Colombia marks International Land Mine Awareness Day Thursday with the “lend your leg” campaign, which sees people rolling up a pant leg to show solidarity with the 9,755 people injured or killed by landmine in the country since 1990.
Of the nearly ten thousand victims of the past 22 years, more than 10% were children, while 2,044 people died from their injuries. Approximately 6,000 of the victims were members of the security forces and the rest civilians, according to daily El Espectador.
It is widely accepted that Colombia’s two biggest rebel groups, the FARC and ELN, are most responsible for the laying of mines. The Director of the Antipersonnel Mines Program of the Presidency Daniel Avila used the occasion to call on illegal armed groups to give up using them and provide maps of existing mine fields.
“The request is that we stop using them and of course if we knew where those minefields were it would be much easier to prevent and educate people and to proceed with removal and destruction,” said Avila.
Due to the rural location of the conflict zones, many of the civilian victims of land mines are impoverished farmers with limited access to medical care.
Among the events taking place to commemorate Colombia’s land mine victims, the iconic colonial-era schooner “Gloria,” which sits in Cartagena port as a tourist attraction, displayed an image of a prosthetic lower limb. In Bogota, 4,000 people joined a 11km run Monday organized by the Program for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (Paicma), a government-run body which raises awareness and implements anti-mine initiatives.
Until 2009, it was estimated that Colombia was the country with the second-largest annual land mine victims toll, behind Afghanistan. It is believed up to 100,000 land mines remain hidden in the Colombian countryside.