Casualties from Myanmar landmines jump to over 1,000 last year, says UNICEF

A UNICEF logo is pictured outside their offices in Geneva

(Reuters) - The number of civilian casualties, including children, who were killed or maimed by landmines and explosive ordnance in Myanmar more than doubled last year to 1,052, the U.N. children's agency said on Thursday, as conflict raged in the impoverished country.

Landmines and explosive remnants of war caused a 270% jump in casualties in 2023, including 188 killed and 864 wounded, UNICEF said, up from 390 casualties in 2022. Children made up more than 20% of all landmine victims last year, it said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power from an elected government in a 2021 coup, ending tentative steps towards a democracy. The conflict has turned Myanmar into one of the most landmine-contaminated countries in the world.

Over the past few years, an armed civilian resistance has joined forces with longstanding ethnic armed groups to take on the military. The junta leadership has been under unprecedented pressure following battlefield defeats in a sweeping offensive by rebel groups that started in October.

UNICEF said landmines and other explosive ordnance were being indiscriminately used by all sides in the escalating conflict.

A junta spokesman did not respond to a call from Reuters seeking comment.

"The use of landmines is not only reprehensible but also illegal under international humanitarian law," said Debora Comini, UNICEF regional director for East Asia and the Pacific.

The agrarian heartland of Sagaing accounted for over 35% of all landmine-related casualties in 2023, according to UNICEF data.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff, editing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Bernadette Baum)