ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11 , 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41

Scourge of landmines

By Malik Gunatilleke

Over two million mines still remain uncleared in Sri Lanka with most victims being civilian, a Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital consultant surgeon disclosed on Friday.

Speaking at a seminar entitled, ‘The Scourge of Mines’, Dr. Gamini Goonetilleke said 80 per cent of the landmine victims were civilians and only 10 per cent of them had access to proper medical facilities.

He said statistics showed that about 30% to 40% of victims were innocent children.

“One of the compelling issues we face is that people are not aware of first aid and have no basic knowledge on how to prevent excessive bleeding,” he said. Dr. Goonetilleke said that many victims died of excessive bleeding, on the way to hospital.Apart from the disastrous effects of landmine injuries, Dr. Goonetilleke spoke about the quality of treatment the victims received.

“We need competent surgeons and accessible medical facilities to ensure that the victims receive the best medical treatment, because in my experience I have seen many victims die because of the lack of medical facilities at their disposal,” he said.On the matter of landmine prevention, he said the demining process was costly and slow and may not be practical for large scale clearances while the Mine Risk Education (MRE) and demarcation of landmine areas may be the more suitable methods of prevention.

However, he said that the Sri Lankan armed forces along with 10 NGOs were involved in the demining of these areas.He said that in 2003 only 2.2 square kilometres were cleared from mines in Sri Lanka while 2004 and 2005 saw the clearing of 3.8 sq. km and 19.5 sq. km respectively which leaves another estimated 125 sq. km still uncleared.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.