The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has released the 9th Edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety, a report summarizing the accomplishments of the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program, including the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program, the world’s largest such operation to help countries safely dispose of landmines and excess arms and munitions.
In 2009, the Department of State provided $130 million in mine clearance and weapons destruction assistance in 32 countries, as well as programs to assist conflict survivors and inform area residents of potential risks from unexploded munitions. Among the 57-page illustrated report’s highlights is Afghanistan, where, despite the many challenges, U.S.-pioneered community-based demining initiatives are helping hundreds of families with training and employment as demining personnel, as well as follow-on agricultural and vocational training that complements local development projects. This is a trend the United States hopes will continue and be adopted by other countries.Working in close cooperation with the Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of State has helped destroy over 1.4 million small arms and light weapons and 80,000 tons of munitions around the world since 2001. In addition, this interagency partnership has collaborated with several governments and international organizations since 2003 to destroy nearly 32,000 excess or poorly secured man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), shoulder-fired missiles that pose a serious potential threat to global aviation in the hands of terrorists or insurgents.