For 12 years the West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Munitions have been committed to educating the public about the devastation caused by landmines and cluster munitions through donations of their time, talent and energy.PSALM/WVCBL is “PUSHING FOR PROGRESS” on the Mine Ban Treaty! Awareness events included a balloon launch with messages of hope that a “MINE FREE WORLD” is possible and that is time for the United States to “get on board” and ban landmines and cluster bombs. PSALM/WVCBL attended the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (11MSP) which took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia the first week of December 2011. Our connection to Cambodia is a very real one. The first international campaigners to encourage and educate us about these issues were from the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines, the co-recipients to the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. The Mine Ban Treaty has successfully stigmatized and created an international norm against the weapon. Today, 158 nations are signatories. Casualty rates are a fraction of what they were 20 years ago. Eighty-six parties to the treaty have eradicated their stockpiles, collectively destroying more than 45 million antipersonnel mines. The treaty emerged from the human tragedy caused by mines in Cambodia as well as in so many other locations around the world. Unlike other disarmament treaties, born in Washington or Moscow, or Geneva or New York, this Convention emerged from the reality faced by people in Cambodia, in Mozambique, in Nicaragua, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Afghanistan, and in countless other mine infested towns, villages, farms, communities and countries around the world. Up until the mid 1990s, the anti-personnel mine was used seemingly without question as to its consequences. Thanks to the international movement that grew out of such places as Cambodia, the world became well aware that there are indeed tragic consequences. MORE than anything, the experience of countries like Cambodia and the tireless efforts of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines put a human face on this issue.
PSALM students displayed large banners with hand drawn figures of themselves working for a “LANDMINE/CLUSTER BOMB FREE WORLD”. Students launched 50 red, blue and white balloons, the colors of the Cambodian and USA flags. The colors are symbolic of our hope that the United States and countries everywhere will ban the use of land mines and cluster munitions. Each balloon carried a message of hope for children around the world to be able to “walk without fear” and for the U.S. to not “walk away”…ban landmines and cluster bombs NOW! The students attached pictures of 5 year old cluster bomb victim, Ahmad Mokaled to each balloon. Ahmad has become a symbol for our students of the indiscriminate nature of these weapons and the devastation theycause.
With the 11MSP, the Convention is returned to a place where it all started two decades ago, Cambodia, a country that remains one of the most mine affected countries in the world. It was also the chance to show the world that this is an issue that countless victims live with today. It was an opportunity to remember that the Convention has a human face. It is the face of a sister, brother, mother, father or child who has lost a loved one as a result of a landmine.
An important aspect of our mission of educating others is to document the issue in affected areas. This allows us to share with others the effects of landmines and cluster munitions on innocent civilians, days, months and years after conflicts are over. Last year, I had the opportunity to take photographs Xieng Khouang province in Laos. These photos show the devastation caused by these indiscriminate weapons. Schools and school children in mined areas, farmers working in fields marked with the all too familiar “danger mines” symbols and sadly, the victims/survivors who had only been out looking for food, water or firewood. The United States has not used antipersonnel mines since the 1991 Gulf War — 20 years ago. It banned export of the weapons in 1992, and ceased production in 1997. Despite the obvious moral and humanitarian reasons for joining this treaty, the United States has yet to do so. U.S. compliance would eliminate the excuse used by other key powers, including Russia, China, Vietnam, Pakistan and India, for not joining the treaty. We join with 16 Nobel Peace Prize laureates and 68 U.S. Senators, more than the two-thirds majority needed for Senate ratification of the treaty) who have urged President Obama to join the 158 other countries, including all of our NATO allies, that have signed the treaty.
WVCBL/PSALM say “JOIN THE TEAM” AND “PUSH FOR PROGRESS”! The time is NOW for action! EVERY child should be able to walk without fear!
PSALM students sponsored three water wells in mine affected regions of Cambodia. The wells provide clean safe water to families, landmine survivors, internally displaced persons and refugees. Children are especially at risk when going outside of their villages for clean water.
PSALM teams up with Landmines Blow! for this project. Landmines Blow! is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the global landmine crisis. Benefits of Gaining Access to Clean Water…
* Women and children do not need to travel through areas littered with landmines to collect water.
* The time saved in carrying water means that women have more time for being involved in productive activities (such as agriculture, tending animals or income generating activities such as spinning cotton for sale at markets).
* Women are able to send their children (especially female children) to school as a result of not needing children to help with water collection.
* Both health and hygiene improves across the community. Our wells provide families with on-going access to clean water which can be used for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes, and feeding animals and chickens.
* The wastewater from the wells is used for home gardening. Food grown can support a family with extra being sold at the market.
* Common water related diseases are less likely to occur, these diseases especially deadly to children.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW TO GET INVOLVED: