An estimated 110 million land mines scattered in 64 countries continue to terrorize people and destroy human lives long after wars and fighting have ceased. Despite efforts to clear these devices, their numbers continue to increase and their presence, constitutes a substantial threat to public health in the affected countries. Direct consequences include both the physical and emotional injuries from the impact, flying debris, and structural collapse associated with their detonation. Indirect consequences include increases in the incidence of waterborne diseases, diarrhea, malnutrition, infectious diseases, and spread of the human immunodeficiency virus associated with the increased use of blood. Those at highest risk of these latter consequences are mostly the disadvantaged poor, especially children. Psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, occur in those not directly injured as well as those physically wounded by the explosion.
Besides efforts to ban production, stockpiling and export of land mines, a comprehensive and integrated health program aimed at the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of those injured directly or indirectly by land mines is needed urgently. Strategies should include mine-awareness programs, enhanced transport of those directly injured, training the villagers in first aid, augmenting the capacity and quality of treatment facilities, improving the psychological support and treatment capabilities, development of rehabilitation programs, and the institution and enhancement of public-health programs directed at the indirect consequences associated with the presence of land mines.
Land mines constitute a major public-health problem in the world that must be addressed.