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Landmine Survivors

Landmines and UXO are an ongoing threat to the people of Azerbaijan and there continues to be reports of new mine casualties and fatalities each month.  65 people were victims of mine/UXO incidents in 2005, alone, and in 2004, there were 43 mine/UXO victims (See Mine Victim Total for details on the demographics of those killed and injured in recent years).

In June 2004, the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines completed a 13-month project entitled “Addressing the Needs of Landmine Survivors in Azerbaijan” in eight towns and regions of Azerbaijan (View Full Report).  The project was carried out with the financial assistance of the US State Department through the Slovenian International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance.  

During the course of the project, information was gathered on 722 mine/UXO casualties in Azerbaijan who were either injured (595) or killed (127) since 1991.  Whenever possible survivors or the family members of those killed were contacted and invited to participate in the survey.  382 mine survivors completed the questionnaire.

Of these 382 mine survivors, 274 were only aware of the legal provisions for pensions, but not of the other 25 benefits available to war-disabled.  In addition, the seminars conducted as part of the project, revealed that the lack of awareness about current legislation made it difficult or impossible for mine survivors to defend their legal rights in court.  Most landmine victims cannot afford to pay for professional legal services with the meager monthly pension granted by the government (approximately $20-25 a month).  Thus mine survivors are denied their basic legal rights as people with disabilities.

The survey also identified lack of psychological support as a significant problem. Government-financed rehabilitation centers do not provide ongoing psychological support. Only 78 respondents (20.4 percent) reported receiving psychological support following the mine explosion, while 354 survivors (92.7 percent) stated their desire for psychological support programs.  Small group seminars with mine survivors revealed that most people preferred individual psychological consultations to group sessions.  The mine survivors felt uncomfortable speaking about their problems in a formal group setting as this caused additional negative feelings.

In addition to legal and psychological concerns, the vast majority of the mine survivors surveyed identified unemployment and poverty as major obstacles to their well-being and recovery from the mine incident.  88 percent of the survivors surveyed were unemployed at the time of the survey and 90.8 percent believed that their opportunities for employment or education had decreased since their injury. 

The majority of mine survivors (56.8 percent) live in households of more than five people.  When asked which issues were of primary concern to the survivors, the highest concerns cited were lack of adequate housing (71.7 percent), unemployment (52.6 percent) and lack of an adequate income for basic needs (40 percent). 

Evidence of these socio-economic challenges was corroborated by a four-month countrywide needs assessment survey of 1,883 mine survivors, implemented in 2004 by the Azerbaijan National Mine Action Agency (ANAMA), with funding from the European Commission.  This study found that 74 percent of mine survivors were unemployed and 84 percent expressed a need for money for medical treatment.  Clearly, mine survivors in Azerbaijan are faced with many problems limiting their socio-economic reintegration after a mine incident. 

It is evident that mine survivors in Azerbaijan need better and more comprehensive services and support.  Efforts must be made to ensure that their rights are respected and upheld and they are able to fully rehabilitate and reintigrate into regular life following their incidents.