Yesterday, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) went into effect. The CCM is an international treaty that bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions.
For those that don’t know, cluster bomb units are weapons that release explosive fragments when they’re dropped from the air, covering swaths of land with cluster munitions, sometimes known as “bomblets.”
TAKE ACTION: Clean up cluster bombs!
Many of these dangerous items fail to explode on impact, which means that they continue to pose a threat of death or injury to civilians long after the conflict is over. For years, land is unusable for infrastructure rebuilding or farming. Even worse, these brightly colored munitions look like toys to children, who can be severely injured or killed when they touch these items.
Cluster munitions were heavily used in Laos PDR, Cambodia, Sudan, Lebanon, and Iraq, where contamination still affects daily life in countless communities. In these areas, it’s not enough to simply ban future use of cluster munitions. The bomblets littering the land must be removed.
MAG, a Nobel-prize-winning organization, has been working in many of these communities for nearly twenty years. MAG helps to clear deadly cluster munitions, as well as other dangerous remnants of conflict that threaten people’s safety and prevent their development for years following a war’s end.
Cluster bombs from the 2006 Lebanon conflict forever changed Adnan Fakih’s life. Unexploded bomblets that contaminated his home in the south of Lebanon took his right arm, and his once-prosperous farm is now littered with explosives. Only a quarter of his land is safe — certainly not enough for Fakih to provide for his family of eight.
Since 2006, MAG has destroyed at least 21,000 submunitions in Lebanon and cleared more than 13 million square meters of land, including Fakih’s land. Hundreds of families have been able to safely return to their homes. But there is much work left to be done.
Across the Asian continent sits the most cluster bomb-contaminated country: Lao PDR. In the 1960s and 70s, it is believed that more than 260 million bomblets were dropped in the region, which is roughly the size of the United Kingdom. Some estimates suggest as many as 80 million of these bomblets still litter the land.
“People in Laos have been living with the legacy of one of the heaviest and most under-reported bombing campaigns in history for 30 years, and although serious efforts to clear the land are being made, there remains a huge amount of work to do,” said Lou McGrath OBE, Chief Executive of MAG.
In many ways Laos has recovered from this violent past. But the threat of cluster munitions still looms for Laotians in poor, rural areas. The Laos government has ratified the new treaty — an important sign of their commitment to working with the international community to clear the threat from these weapons.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an important step, but MAG has a lot of work to do to help the people still at-risk from cluster munitions dropped in years passed. Show your support for MAG’s life-saving work: Sign this pledge and stand with MAG to help make communities safe again.
photo credit: ©Sean Sutton/MAG