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An integrated approach to mine victim assistance

Explosive weapons

Handicap International attended the Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Chile from 28 November to 1 December. It used this opportunity to present its “integrated approach” to victim assistance. Elke Hottentot, Handicap International’s victim assistance expert, explains the challenges involved.

Handicap International Victims Assistance expert Elke Hottentot during the Ottawa Treaty Conference in Santiago, Chile, last December.

Handicap International Victims Assistance expert Elke Hottentot during the Ottawa Treaty Conference in Santiago, Chile, last December. | © Avec l’aimable autorisation de l’équipe de communication de la Convention

“To understand Handicap International’s ‘integrated approach’, the first thing you need to remember is that State signatories of the Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the Convention on Conventional Weapons have obligations to clear land contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war, to destroy stockpiles of mines, and so on, and to help the victims of these weapons, which is what interests us the most.

Specific programmes

Programmes are created specifically to assist victims, by supplying them with prostheses and orthoses, giving survivors the specific care they need, helping children who have lost their sight or an arm in a mine accident to return to school, and so on. It’s a start but it’s not enough. With the integrated approach, we take things a step further by ensuring development policies and programmes take victim assistance into account.

Improving development policies

When a funding body supports a health development programme in a country contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war, like Laos, for example, the programme should be designed to include survivors and indirect victims, such as family and friends. When a contaminated country develops a network of health facilities, it needs to take into account child survivors, for example, by covering rural and isolated areas, where most mine victims usually live.

It’s all the more important to include victim assistance in development policies since budgets and funding for mine action, including victim assistance, get smaller every year. Financial support drops or even dries up completely after a country becomes mine-free. This is what happened in Mozambique, where mine clearance operations came to an end last year. Since then, funding has dropped sharply. But the victims are still there and still need assistance!

Handicap International presentation on the integrated approach

We organised a presentation at the Mine Ban Treaty meeting in early December in Santiago, to provide State delegates with information on the integrated approach to victim assistance and to advise them on how to implement it. We produced a guide with examples of best practices in Laos, Cambodia, Uganda and several other countries, on how to ensure equal access to services and to implement fair and effective policies, and so on, along with the most common scenarios. The guide, which took eighteen months to complete, was based on consultations with some thirty States, who provided us with feedback through questionnaires and workshops.”

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