Unexploded military material in Afghanistan cause more injuries and deaths than landmines especially among children, according to research published on bmj.com today.
Over 6,000 injuries were attributed to landmines and unexploded ordnance - which includes weapons, ammunition, combat vehicles, and equipment - from January 1997 to September 2002. Of these, 57% of injuries in 2002 were caused by unexploded ordnance compared to 36% by landmines - an exact reverse of statistics from 1997*.
Children aged 5-14 years are the most at risk group, according to the researchers. Almost half (42%) of injuries caused by unexploded ordnance in children were due to the tampering or playing with explosives. Among landmine injuries in children, the proportion due to tampering or playing was three times lower (14%).
The researchers analysed data from the surveillance database on injuries due to unexploded ordnance and landmines, maintained by the United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan.
They point out that in 2000-2, Afghanistan had the highest number of reported casualties due to landmines and unexploded munitions in the world.
The researchers suggest that factors such as high visibility may contribute significantly to the numbers of deaths and injuries in children by unexploded ordnance.
Munitions should therefore be designed to be less attractive and visible to children and the debate on landmines should be widened to include threats posed by other military material.
Notes to editors: *In 1997 57% of injuries were due to landmines. In 2002 this decreased to 36%.
Materials provided by British Medical Journal. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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