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100 million land mines worldwide

Thousands of casualties each year

In this story: October 10, 1997
Web posted at: 10:52 a.m. EDT (1452 GMT)

(CNN) -- Every 22 minutes a land mine explodes, maiming or killing 26,000 people a year. Most victims are not soldiers but women and children who happen to live in areas that were once war zones.

By some estimates, there are more than 100 million land mines buried all over the planet. "They exist long after the conflict has ended," says Geoff Loane of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"They exist in rural areas. They exist in places where there is poor health structure and there is not enough done in order to treat those people who are wounded by land mines," he said.

According to the United Nations,
the 10 countries with the most
land mines still in place are:
Western Sahara
9-10 million
9 million
5-10 million
5 million
4-7 million
1-2 million
1-2 million
1 million
1 million
1 million

Land mines as protection

For most people, land mines are an insidious weapon, but to the people of South Korea they are also a safeguard for peace.

South Koreans believe mine fields help keep at bay the 1.1 million communist North Korean troops across the border.

Countless mines lie in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a buffer area running across the midsection of the divided peninsula.

An unknown number laid during the 1950-53 Korean War remain buried in what has since become a 2 1/2 mile-wide (4 km) demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

Since the war ended, an additional, undisclosed number -- some estimates say tens of thousands, some say millions -- have been laid by South Korean soldiers and their U.S. allies south of the DMZ and by the North Koreans on their side.

Other facts about land mines, according to the ICRC and Human Rights Watch:

  • It would take $33 billion and 11 centuries, at the current pace, to clear the active mines scattered in 64 countries around the world.
  • A single land mine costs $3 to $30 to make.
  • The cost of finding and clearing a single land mine ranges from $300 to $1,000.
  • Thirty percent of land mine injuries require an amputation.
  • Some 250,000 people worldwide have been left handicapped by land mines. Most are in Angola, Eritrea, Mozambique, Somalia and Sudan as well as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Bosnia and Iraq.
  • Thirty-eight countries make anti-personnel mines. Leading the list are China, Russia and the United States. To a lesser extent: France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, India, Chile and Pakistan.
  • More and more, mines are being made of plastic, which makes them almost impossible to find with metal detectors.
  • A 10-year-old child injured by a land mine would have to get sized for 25 different prostheses during his lifetime at a cost of $3,125. In many poor nations, most amputees have to settle for a lifetime with crutches.

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