Britain’s Prince Harry has thrown his support behind a campaign to rid the world of landmines by 2025, two decades after his mother, Princess Diana, walked through a minefield in Angola to highlight the plight of victims.
Even though the production and use of landmines has dropped since a 1997 treaty to prohibit their use, more than 60 million people are at risk of death or injury from landmines globally, the UK Department for International Development (DfID) says.
Hard to detect, difficult to clear and often designed to maim rather than kill, landmines linger in the soil for decades.
The number of people reported killed or injured by landmines rose by 75 percent in 2015 to nearly 6,500, largely due to conflicts in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, according to the Landmine Monitor. Most of the casualties were civilians.
Harry, who is third in line to the throne, used a speech to mark International Mine Awareness to urge the international community to help end the use of landmines.
“My mother had been shocked and appalled by the impact that landmines were having on incredibly vulnerable people … she refused to accept that these destructive weapons should be left where they were,” said Harry at an event in Kensington Palace.
The prince, 32, said the world “should celebrate the huge progress which has been made”, but added that more needed to be done.
“The sooner we are able to clear all remaining landmines the less chance there is of innocent lives being lost or changed forever,” he said.
“Let’s make future generations proud and finish what we started.”
Priti Patel, minister for international development, said landmines were a “global scourge” as she announced DfiD’s plans to triple its support for landmine clearance to 100 million pounds ($124 million) over the next three years.
“It’s not just the fatalities and the terrible, immobilising injuries landmines cause – it’s the destruction of opportunity and hope, that has scarred so many families… more must be done and more will be done,” said Patel, who also spoke at the event.
In the last year of her life, Princess Diana used a high-profile trip to Angola – which along with Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are among the most mined countries in the world – to raise awareness of the threat landmines.
Following in his mother’s footsteps, Harry visited minefields in Angola in 2013 and Mozambique in 2010. Mozambique was declared landmine free in 2015.
More than 160 countries have signed the Mine Ban Treaty and 27 countries and one territory have declared themselves free of landmines, including Rwanda and Nicaragua.
By Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Katie Nguyen and Belinda Goldsmith; c Thomson Reuters Foundation.