Three decades of conflict, have left Cambodia riddled with landmines.
Conservative estimates put the number of undetonated mines at between four and six million (CMAC). That’s one for every three people in the country. Crazy enough, a landmine costs as little as three dollars to make and around one thousand dollars to remove (UN). In addition, cluster munitions, dropped during the Vietnam War still claim lives and limbs. Cluster munitions consist of a parent weapon that when deployed spreads hundreds of separate sub-explosives over a wide area. According to the UNDP, ‘Surveys indicate that 30% of the estimated 25 million ‘bombies’ dropped on Cambodia during the Vietnam War remain unexploded in the ground’.
The human cost? Since 1979, 60,000 registered casualties have been accounted for – who know’s how many unregistered? In 2004, 898 new landmine and UXO (unexploded ordinance) casualties were reported, 277 were children, 888 were civilians. The cause? Landlessness and poverty. People with no means take high risks. 56% of all casualties were involved in daily livelihood activities like farming, fishing, herding, collecting wood or water, 26% were travelling (Landmine Monitor).
So why build a barn? In the short term, to put a roof over the heads of some 200 seasonal workers about to show up for harvest next month. But, in the long term, its about breaking the back of poverty. Putting land back in the hands of the landless. Landmine free.