Social cost of land mines in four countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Mozambique

BMJ. 1995 Sep 16;311(7007):718-21. doi: 10.1136/bmj.311.7007.718.


Objectives: To document the effects of land mines on the health and social conditions of communities in four affected countries.

Design: A cross design of cluster survey and rapid appraisal methods including a household questionnaire and qualitative data from key informants, institutional reviews, and focus groups of survivors of land mines from the same communities.

Setting: 206 communities, 37 in Afghanistan, 66 in Bosnia, 38 in Cambodia, and 65 in Mozambique.

Subjects: 174,489 people living in 32,904 households in the selected communities.

Main outcome measures: Effects of land mines on food security, residence, livestock, and land use; risk factors: extent of individual land mine injuries; physical, psychological, social, and economic costs of injuries during medical care and rehabilitation.

Results: Between 25% and 87% of households had daily activities affected by land mines. Based on expected production without the mines, agricultural production could increase by 88-200% in different regions of Afghanistan, 11% in Bosnia, 135% in Cambodia, and 3.6% in Mozambique. A total of 54,554 animals was lost because of land mines, with a minimum cash value of $6.5m, or nearly $200 per household. Overall, 6% of households (1964) reported a land mine victim; a third of victims died in the blast. One in 10 of the victims was a child. The most frequent activities associated with land mine incidents were agricultural or pastoral, except in Bosnia where more than half resulted from military activities, usually during patrols. Incidences have more than doubled between 1980-3 and 1990-3, excluding the incidents in Bosnia. Some 22% of victims (455/2100) were from households reporting attempts to remove land mines; in these households there was a greatly increased risk of injury (odds ratio 4.2 and risk difference 19% across the four countries). Lethality of the mines varied; in Bosnia each blast killed an average of 0.54 people and injured 1.4, whereas in Mozambique each blast killed 1.45 people and wounded 1.27. Households with a land mine victim were 40% more likely to experience difficulty in providing food for the family. Family relationships were affected for around one in every four victims and relationships with colleagues in 40%.

Conclusions: Land mines seriously undermine the economy and food security in affected countries; they kill and maim civilians at an increasing rate. The expense of medical care and rehabilitation add economic disability to the physical burden. Awareness of land mines can be targeted at high risk attitudes, such as those associated with tampering with mines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Afghanistan
  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry / economics
  • Blast Injuries / economics*
  • Blast Injuries / etiology*
  • Blast Injuries / mortality
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Cambodia
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Explosions* / economics
  • Explosions* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Food Supply
  • Homeless Persons
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mozambique
  • Sentinel Surveillance
  • Social Conditions*
  • Warfare*