29 January 1998
TOWARDS CONCERTED PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION ON ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES
The 101st session of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) has just drawn to a close. During that session, the members of the Board recommended to the fifty-first World Health Assembly, which is to take place in Geneva, 11-16 May 1998, that it adopt a resolution calling for concerted public health action on anti-personnel mines and submit a plan of action on the subject to WHO.
Approximately 110 million landmines are scattered across 64 countries, causing about 150 casualties each week, most of them women and children. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, no less than 280 million people on the earth are at risk from these mines today.
The text of the resolution to be put before the World Health Assembly notes "the dramatic consequences of anti-personnel-mine injuries which particularly affect civilian populations, and are uniquely tragic, so that they deserve special attention". It recalls also that the Oslo Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction provides that assistance for the care and rehabilitation of mine victims and for mine awareness programmes may be provided, inter alia, through international organizations.
The resolution recognises the serious effects on health of anti-personnel mines as they, inter alia, limit population mobility, prevent access to arable land, resulting in malnutrition, hamper access to health services, contribute to the spread of communicable diseases like poliomyelitis and hinder their eradication, and generate significant psychosocial disorders. The resolution therefore asks that WHO, in cooperation with the other organizations concerned, strengthen the capacity of affected States for better assessment of the effects of anti-personnel-mine injuries, improve emergency management of such injuries, and provide treatment and rehabilitation for the victims.
This will entail the establishment by WHO, and other parties concerned, of a clearing-house for information on public health aspects of the use of mines, to support policy and programme planning.
This draft resolution, proposed by six members of the Executive Board, was strongly supported also by the Belgian Minister of Health, Marcel Colla, who came to Geneva in person to give his backing to the preparation of a WHO plan of action against anti-personnel mines, even though his country does not at present have any of its nationals on the Executive Board. The Minister reminded members that Belgium had been a pioneer in the campaign against anti-personnel mines, since it had been the first country to adopt, in 1995, legislation banning totally their use, production, transfer and stockpiling. He also undertook, on behalf of his country, to contribute to that effort, offering the Organization part of the resources that would be required to put the plan into effect.
In another move, the Republic of Ireland sent the first financial contribution to support the WHO plan.
For further information, journalists can contact Philippe Stroot, Media Coordinator, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 791 2535. Fax (41 22) 791 4858.Strootp@who.ch
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.ch/