"Surviving the Scourge of Landmines"
By Sameer S. Bino
Under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Landmine Survivors Network, in cooperation with the Jordan Red Crescent, the Hashemite Charitable Society and the International Campaign to Ban landmines, hosted a the first regional conference on landmine injury and rehabilitation in the Middle East. It was good opportunity for Mr. Sameer S. Bino to distribute the following report to the conference participants since a lot of them were unaware of the landmines problem in Chechnya
"Every 22 minutes another man, woman or child somewhere in the World becomes the victim of a landmine.
There will be 70 casualties today, 500 this week, more than 2,000 this Month and over 26,000 this year." 1
The Republic of Chechnya is located in the southern border of Russia, in the North Caucasus. Before the war, the population of Chechnya was 1,250,000; 200,000 of them Russians and 50,000 from the surrounding republics. After the war, hundreds of thousands of Chechens were killed and 350,000 of them sought sanctuary in nearby republics. Many Russians and other minorities left the country.
Nowadays, there are no more than 600,000 people in Chechnya living side by side to around 1.2 million landmines, according to Jane's report 2, planted carefully and thoughtfully by the Russian army in inhabited, agricultural, animal grazing areas and near vital water resources. The main objective is not military but rather to harm civilian population. Consequently, the Chechens have been sleeping outdoors, with scarce food and limited water supply and with no means of heat normally provided by firewood from forests.
And the worst part is that the mines were deviously designed in the forms of toys and household tools so as to make the children the largest portion of victims.
A typical example is the Amirova family. Aimani Amirova, a mother in her forties, her 12 year-old son Zaurbek, 10 year-old daughter Mariam, and 9 year-old Issa, were from the Prigorodny village on the outskirts of Grozny. During the war they fled to khazav-yurt in Daghestan. The Amirova family returned home in early August 96. The Russian authorities had reassured the family that their house and garden had been demined. On august 10, while Aimani was at the market, the children had seen a colorful object and tried to handle it.
Zaurbek's left leg below the knee and left forearm was blown off, right leg fractured, and face maimed with the right eye possibly blinded. Zaurbek also suffered serious abdominal injures with a surgical opening in the abdomen to drain body wastes. He was still hospitalized, extremely emaciated looking and shell shocked. Mariam's lower right leg was injured with compound fractures. She was hospitalized as well. Issa's left hand was amputated at the wrist. The Amirova family had not received any assistance for the physical or psychological rehabilitation of traumatized children just like all the other mine victims in Chechnya that only get preliminary medical assistance. 3
The situation in Chechnya is very difficult because of the following: 4
1. No demining specialists and technical resources are available.
The situation becomes even harder with the absence of the international and humanitarian organizations. The Chechen children feel puzzled when they hear that there are governments and international organizations that hold conferences and send relief funds and missions and spend millions of dollars to help landmine victims around the world; and they wonder "Aren't we also living on the same planet? Why doesn't anyone remember us? When will this assistance reach us?".
1 Global Landmine Casualties since May 16th, 1996
2 Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance 1997-98
3 Armed Conflict in Chechnya: Its impact on children, Hrair Balian,