Aid Land Mine Survivors

Much attention has been paid to removing existing land mines and banning future ones. Too little help has gone to land mine survivors.

They are the often forgotten past of land-mine damage, courageous individuals determined to rebuild their lives. Even the indomitable Bosnian amputees, widows, and orphans spotlighted by Diana's last mission have receded from local and world attention. The restless camera eye of the news media has panned on to other scenes.

That past must be addressed. Then the future, which involves preventing more such victims by removing the millions of hidden booby traps.

Technicians have begun planning how to remove 100 million mines lurking in 64 nations. But governments haven't yet outlined concrete plans as to exactly what they can and should do to help land mine survivors and their families rejoin society. That should include, of course, what governments can do to help new survivors among the more than 25,000 more innocents killed or maimed each year.

Even the United States, which has opted out of the widely backed treaty to ban land mines, agrees that big money - perhaps as much as $1 billion a year - should be spent to remove all mines from the path of civilians by the year 2010.

Good. But not enough.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in describing the US proposal, said it was intended to increase vastly the public and private funding devoted to finding and clearing land mines. That, she declared, would "ensure that civilians in every country on every continent are secure from the threat of land mines."

But in most of those countries thousands of brave, resourceful survivors are getting little help as they try to rebuild shattered lives. (The Landmine Survivors Network rightly insists they not be called "victims" - emphasizing that even the severely maimed, the widows, and orphans are grittily restoring usefulness and meaning to their lives.)

Representatives of 89 nations who agreed on a land-mine treaty in Oslo this September inserted language urging help for survivors. But it's short on specifics. What's needed is a yardstick to measure whether governments are doing enough on both aiding survivors and clearing mines to end this scourge.

To start thinking on this subject, we suggest that 25 to 30 percent of that $1 billion per year be earmarked for survivors. That means more job training, assistance for widows who try to start small businesses, care and education for orphans, and better artificial limbs and mechanical aids.

As we have remarked before, the world's conscience has been stirred over all sorts of attacks on innocent civilians during a war. Now it's time to aid civilians who continue to be attacked long after peace is declared and the troops have gone home.

Courageous survivors, like those visited by Diana on her last mission, merit more help.

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