Students lend their legs on Landmine Awareness Day

Every 30 minutes, someone becomes a victim of the estimated 70,000,000 landmines buried in about 80 countries, the United Nations says.

It’s something Andrew Murcia says he watched play out on TV in Colombia.

“I grew up in a country that was heavy on landmines, [especially] in the ’90s,” the third-year York University student said by email. “This of course was reflected on what I would see on the news and what I would perceive on the socio-political situation in my country.”

Murcia was part of a group of university students and others who marked the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4 by participating in the Lend Your Leg campaign at Yonge-Dundas Square. They were there to raise awareness of the issues relating to landmines.

Like Murcia, Colombian-born York University student Ana Maria Aristizabal said landmines are a big problem in her home country.

“They were placed 50 years ago and no one remembers where they are,” she said at the event. “A lot of people lose some limbs [by accidentally stepping on them].”

Participants in the Lend Your Leg campaign — which was started last year Colombian citizens and was joined by people from other countries — gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square, each with one pant leg rolled exposing the words “No More Mines” written on their bare skin.

A line of single shoes on the sidewalk was a symbolic remembrance of landmine victims, Murcia said April 4.

“We have people who are very interested [in the event] and we have people sharing their own actual stories: people from Iran, from Latin America and Africa,” said Murcia.

According to the United Nations, the Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention, became international law on March 1, 1999, outlawing landmines in two-thirds of the world’s countries, including Canada.

But there is still work to be done, Aristizabal said.

“There are [36] countries in the world that haven’t signed up to be part of the Mine Ban Treaty and one of those countries is the United States,” she said. “We are really pushing them to sign up.”