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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 02:08 GMT 03:08 UK
UN marks landmine awareness day
By Susannah Price
BBC News, United Nations

An Afghan soldier stands guard as anti-personnel mines are exploded
More than 80 countries are affected by mines left over from conflicts
The UN is marking the first mine awareness day, aimed at highlighting progress made in eradicating landmines and the scale of the remaining threat.

The international day is being observed in nearly 30 countries, with a series of dedicated ceremonies.

In a special message, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said landmines had no place in any civilised society.

Up to 20,000 people are killed or maimed by mines every year - at least one fifth of the victims are children.

The director of the UN's Mine Action service, Max Gaylard, said the problem could be solved sooner rather than later, that the annual number of victims was decreasing and there was light at the end of the tunnel.

He said this was a result of international action and support and he called for continued donor backing.

A group of Afghan athletes who lost their legs to mines take part in a ceremony to mark the international awareness day
Landmine victims are taking part in ceremonies across the world

There are still more than 80 countries affected by landmines and explosives left over from conflicts and up to 20,000 adults and children are killed or maimed by them every year.

At the same time some 150 countries have signed up to the convention banning anti-personnel landmines.

In a message to mark the day, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the production and laying of mines was in decline, that stockpiles had been destroyed and clearance operations accelerated.

He said governments, donors, NGOs and the UN were all working together on an unprecedented scale to fight the evil of landmines.

See the damage caused by land mines in Afghanistan

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