I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit MAG (Mines Advisory Group) Headquarters in Manchester on 16 May. MAG was formed in 1989 and is a partner in the campaign to achieve the world to be “Landmine Free by 2025”.
Past Soroptimist International President, Patsy Daniel’s choice for her SI President’s Appeal 1995: ‘Women De-Miners in Laos’ was in partnership with the UK Based MAG (Mines Advisory Group). Soroptimists funded the training of MAG’s first women de-miners in Laos and provided their vehicles. The 1995 President’s Appeal contributed to the advancement of women as leaders and agents of change, making a contribution to peace, safety and economic empowerment in Laos.
I learned that Laos was the most bombed country in the world per capital, with approximately 80 million cluster munitions remaining live in the ground at the end of the conflict. When cluster munitions are dropped, 10 percent do not explode on impact, and are deadly killers decades after the end of war. 90% of the population lives in villages in Laos and 25% of villages are still contaminated more than 40 years after the end of war.
There are stories of children finding the round objects, thinking they have found a toy and being killed. 40% of victims are children.
Land cannot be used productively thereby keeping the people in poverty. MAG provides clearance and releases safe land back to those who need it. Clearance also enables the people to live free from the fear of explosions and achieves improved food security.
MAG also provides risk education and a train the teacher programme that will equip teachers to deliver lifesaving education to their pupils.
The work is continuing, but more needs to be done to achieve full clearance.
For more information: http://www.maginternational.org/
Landmine Free 2025 http://www.landminefree2025.org/
Photograph: With MAG staff Louise Wells, Sean Sutton and Chris Loughran and Kate Moore (who worked with MAG when she represented UK Soroptimists on landmine issues and was a Director of Landmine Action)
Yvonne Simpson QSM