UNMAS helps keep peace by clearing mines

Paul Heslop, the chief of programs with the U.N. Mine Action Service, said on Wednesday that peacekeeping efforts are expanded by clearing mines and explosive remnants of war.

UNMAS employs 15,000 men and women as de-miners globally. It removes hazardous materials, such as landmines and unexploded shells or bombs, which can harm communities long after conflicts have ended.

Heslop said UNMAS helps to keep peace between nations as they clear potentially hazardous materials, adding that while the process is risky for employees, the benefits of removing the obstructions are well worth it.

"Every day, we make the world literally a safer place," Heslop said. "It's very rewarding to go somewhere like east Kabul...when I was there, it was completely devastated-- layers of mines amongst the rubble, lots of unexploded shells, people being injured every day. This time when I went back, there's children playing near the old houses being reconstructed. It's just amazing to think back to what I saw 10 years ago and what really effective de-mining has done in that part of Kabul."

Heslop said most mines are "a poverty issue, because you don't live on a mine field if you've got a choice." He also said mine casualties are usually from the poorest income groups.

"If you're poor to start with, and then you stumble on a mine and blow your leg off, you're a lot poorer," Haslop said. "If the person who stood on the mine was the family breadwinner...it's even more of a poverty blow. It's a spiral that mines make worse and worse. The great thing about mine clearance is there's an immediate peace dividend-- as soon as you start clearing mines, it stimulates growth on the economy and gives people a chance."