Calls for increased victim support funding at Parliamentary breakfast

At a breakfast event in the British Parliament yesterday Find A Better Way CEO Lou McGrath OBE and Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Department for International Development, both spoke to a group of parliamentarians, NGO leaders, and senior insurance sector executives.

Alistair Burt spoke first, starting with his own personal connection to Find A Better Way founder Sir Bobby Charlton. During a charity football match several years ago the minister volleyed a cross from Sir Bobby into the net, past a member of the cast of Brookside who was in goal.

Mr Burt also told the group about the government’s commitment to mine action, including the trebling of funding for landmine clearance in the last year. Efforts are being concentrated in areas where mines are causing the most damage, but the Department for International Development is aware that much more needs to be done.

Speaking next, Lou McGrath explained how the 1997 Ottawa Treaty ,which bans landmines internationally, calls for participating governments to make bigger efforts to help victims of landmines than is currently happening. Lou then quoted the treaty preamble, which says that governments are committed “to do their utmost in providing assistance for the care and rehabilitation, including the social and economic rehabilitation of mine victims.”

Lou explained how the damage done by a landmines reaches far beyond the initial blast victim.

“Many families suffer greatly from the loss of a child or loved one,” he said. “More often than not families suffer the loss of income. In many countries thousands of survivors are left barely surviving, long after they have become a victim to a landmine or other explosive weapons.

“For many people in the world the future for them and their families is bleak.”

According to Lou, mine-affected countries are not in a position to offer an adequate level of care and social assistance to landmine victims in particular, and the gap is not being met by the UK government and its fellow Ottawa Treaty signatories.

“There is little evidence to show that monitoring of the needs of landmine victims is being taken across the broader health and development sectors,” he said.

A general discussion followed, with several prominent leaders from the NGO community taking part. The most poignant moment came when Giles Duley, CEO of Legacy of War told a story from a trip he took to Myanmar with Lou in 2017. After meeting a double-amputee at a local hospital, he invited Giles to visit him at his home where he lived with his extended family.

“He was in his 60s and had lost his legs as a child soldier,” Giles explained, “He lives with his sister’s family and he showed me where he slept – in a basket at the side of the house with the family dogs.

“There’s no difference between him and me other than the support we’ve been given to rebuild our lives. We are both amputees, but I have a career and a full life. He sleeps in a dog basket.

“There is no point saving a life if you don’t give them their life back,” Giles insisted.

The minister finished by thanking Find A Better Way for organising the breakfast meeting and promising that the Department for International Development would now organise a round table to continue the discussions with NGOs.