Any good mine action campaign will consider victim assistance. Yet
there persist certain myths, which if not dealt with, make planning
and conducting a victim assistance activity difficult at best. Anyone
who wants to understand landmine victim assistance and further its
cause should take heed of the following “myths” and plan accordingly.
The circle of victims often emanates from the direct victim of the
blast. Children of the survivor (or of the deceased), spouses,
co-workers and friends are often affected directly by the accident
and may suffer economic hardships, remorse, depression, guilt and
outright fear as a result. Anyone familiar with long-term effects of
events such as the Normandy invasion, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Colombine
High School shootings, etc. is aware that critical incidents often
spawn great post-event psychological and sociological stress, which
often has no outlet or expression.
The effect of the Treaty has been most heartening; by various
accounts, the manufacture, transference, and use of main line
landmines is down, while stockpile destruction continues apace.
However, landmine victims as a group are increasing cumulatively and
will need care and attention regardless of the status of the level of
threat after the accident that affected them.
Because of the angle and direction of the blast, as well as the different kinds of projectiles used, landmines often cause wounds with which most doctors are not familiar. Typically, the Ministries of Health in these countries cannot afford the resources that it would take to focus on the pertinent differences between landmine injuries and those caused by more common or routine accidents.
This is not to say, however, that clinics should be created just to
look after landmine victims; such a requirement would be ludicrous in
light of the great healthcare challenges facing landmine-threatened
nations. Therefore, the challenge seems to be to find a way that
current medical policies can accommodate all accident victims,
including victims of landmines.
Often these considerations (or lack of them) result in victims
jettisoning inappropriate or badly fitted devices and opting for a
more traditional and more primitive—but locally accepted and
available—aid, or for no apparatus at all.
For political or resource reasons, sometimes a country will try to
minimize casualty figures; sometimes it will try to exaggerate them.
Organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross
make heroic attempts to gather this information, but the global data
is still thin and in regards to planning comprehensive victim
assistance efforts, not good enough to allow for effective planning.
It is even unclear what casualty data would be most valuable to
those planning landmine clearance, mine risk education projects, or
The caution, therefore, is to try to produce a program designed to
support the “total person.” We cannot break the bank by trying to be
all things to all men. Often, the prescription can be a locally
applied remedy, which may not be expensive but which may be
invaluable. Money cannot always be the answer, for there simply is not
enough of it to be applied to the small universe of landmine victims.
The solution—easy to state, hard to implement—is to use what we now
know about landmine victims to individually design programs for each
victim, but to apply them locally, realistically and cost effectively.