Almost 11,500 people, primarily soldiers, have been either killed or maimed by anti-personnel mines in Colombia, according to a report by the National Center for Historical Memory.
Nearly 40% of the victims in Colombia were civilians, including 1,142 minors. The figures make Colombia the world’s second most affected country by landmines, behind Afghanistan.
Some 98% of the victims fell in rural areas with the northwestern province of Antioquia registering the most victims in 2016, with 17%.
The challenge that Colombia now faces is to facilitate the care and rehabilitation of the victims.
CNMH investigator Maria Elisa Pinto
“With the placement of these explosives, the rebels seek to protect historical areas, their rear guard, illicit crops, strategic assets and to cause physical and psychological damage to the enemy,” the report stated.
The report, titled “The Hidden War in Colombia”, is due to be released on Wednesday, April 25, at an event in Bogota.
Colombia’s decades-long conflict has left the vast and diverse landscape riddled with explosives, bombs and death traps sprinkled across rural areas in all but one of the country’s 32 provinces.
However, following the signing of the peace process in November 2016, the Colombian government has set the target of being mine-free by 2021.
The now demobilized FARC guerrillas will play a vital role in aiding the government in the demining process.
Firstly, they will provide information to assisting authorities on the location of the mines and secondly they will provide manpower, estimated to be in the region of 1,000 ex-rebels to actually facilitate their removal.
Further progress has been made recently in the demining process as the government and rebel group ELN announced that they have made a breakthrough agreement on landmine removal.
In their first joint press conference, held on April 6, the delegations announced they would begin working out logistical challenges for an agreed joint landmine removal program.