Issue 7.3, December 2003
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Bits and Bytes from Bogota

by Dennis Barlow, MAIC

In mid-November, the U.S. State Department and the Organization of American States (OAS) co-sponsored a regional meeting hosted by the government of Colombia dealing with mine action in Latin America. The goal of the meeting was to identify items of consensus and concern, which would help define a clearer way ahead for obtaining and managing casualty data and for carrying out more effective victim assistance programs. Over 130 participants from 12 nations took part in spirited discussions and focused work groups that attempted to frame key data collection and victim assistance issues. The ideas that surfaced there and the suggested “next-steps” were so insightful that we thought it important to share them through this forum.

Data Collection and Use

Mine-affected countries in Latin America range from those still dealing with newly seeded landmines (e.g., Colombia) to those that are virtually mine-free (e.g., Costa Rica), therefore one might suspect that there would be very little consensus about the subject of managing mine action related information. In fact, the countries of the region reached agreement on some valuable guidelines relating to this critical subject:

The Director would like to acknowledge the following persons for the insights provided during this workshop: Beatriz Elena Gutierrez Rueda, Jorge Cepeda, Simon Berger, Nelson Castillo, Hernan Estrada Hernandez, Luis Suarez, Tammy Hall, Maria Judith Puerta Cardona and Suzanne Fiederlein.

Emergency Medical Treatment

Another topic that gave a new twist to an “evergreen” mine action topic was emergency medical treatment to those suffering the tragedy of a landmine explosion. It was noted that most landmine accidents occur in rural areas where sophisticated medical treatment may not be available within the “golden hour”—the critical time period during which medical treatment is key to survival and minimizing damage.

Exacerbating the problem of dealing with the all-important time factor of medical trauma in isolated areas is the fact that the three patterns of landmine injuries are significantly different and, therefore, treated differently than more conventional injuries due to traffic, agricultural or work-related accidents. From cleansing the wound to applying tourniquets and facilitating the healing process, landmine wounds should be treated differently than other wounds. Also, it was observed that there is no such thing as a “typical” landmine injury; they can occur to any part of the body and in various patterns. In coming to grips with these problems, the following suggestions were made:

The Director would like to acknowledge the following persons for the insights provided during this discussion: Adam Kushner, Jorge Alberto Velez, Jack Victor and Bill McDonough.

Contact Information

Dennis Barlow
MAIC Director