Imagine for a moment that land mines were buried throughout your community, indeed your very neighborhood. You and your family would be in constant danger of having an arm or a leg blown off. Where you walk, jog or ride your bike becomes critical to your safety.
In the United States, no war has been fought on our soil since the Civil War. And because land mines weren't really used until World War I in Europe, there is no land mine hazard here. So we just can't comprehend what life must be like for people who live in former war zones and constantly worry where they step, whether an unexploded mine will be tripped. That ever-present danger is a foreign concept for us.
The State Department estimates there are 70 to 80 million land mines in the ground in some 70 countries. And until recently, it was only a pipe dream to think there would be a serious effort at demining. I remember attending my niece's graduation at the University of Vermont, where Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams castigated the U.S. government for its refusal to sign an anti-land mine treaty. The Clinton administration had pledged to sign the treaty by 2006 at the earliest if the military could come up with alternative weapons, especially for such strategic locations as the Korean peninsula.
The United States is the leading producer of land mines and, ironically, the leading contributor to the United Nations' demining efforts. Tonight, Dave Marash reports on what might be the biggest success story to date: Kosovo. It's a story brought to us by freelance producer Jonathan Silvers. Since the summer of 1999, a U.N.-directed mine- and ordnance-clearing operation has removed half of the estimated 80,000 land mines and bombs left in the wake of the war.
But that's only part of the story. Some 300,000 people around the world are casualties of land mines. What to do for them? The late Princess Diana was very active in this cause. This morning, a member of another prominent royal family, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, testified on behalf of the Landmine Survivors Network before a congressional human rights panel to remind people that someone steps on a land mine every 22 minutes. Queen Noor called for more money to be allocated for humanitarian efforts for the victims. Ninety percent of the victims in the developing world, she says, receive little or no medical care.
Queen Noor will be Chris Bury's guest.
We hope you'll tune in.
Richard Harris is senior producer of Nightline.