Prince Harry heartbreak: Princess Diana's legacy at risk as beloved cause dealt huge blow
PRINCE Harry said he would continue his mother's vital work with landmine clearance until the issue is solved, but Government cuts have created hurdles for campaigners.
Prince Harry retraces Princess Diana's footsteps in Angola
The international campaign against landmines - famously championed by the late Princess Diana who crossed a minefield in central Angola - has been forced into acute need due to an 80 percent cut in funding by the British Government.
The cuts will see the UK’s funding of nearly £125m drop to just £25m for the next three years, in what humanitarian organisations called a "catastrophic collapse in support".
People in South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Iraq, Lebanon and Vietnam will no longer receive any United Kingdom support for their efforts to rid communities of the danger of landmines.
Following in Diana's footsteps, Harry, 37, visited Angola two years ago and spoke about how “incredibly” proud he was of the role the UK played in clearing landmines "through funding and the expertise brought by UK specialist organisations such as the HALO Trust and Mines Advisory Group".
He also said he believed Diana would have continued fighting to rid the world of landmines if she was still alive. Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the iconic moment Diana walked through a minefield in Angola - and the country will receive no UK funding.
Darren Cormack, CEO of Mine’s Advisory Group (MAG) believes while “pragmatic” and taking into consideration “fiscal challenges”, cuts of 80 percent feel "disproportionate".
Fifteen people are killed or injured by landmines every day and at least half of all civilian casualties in 2020 were children, according to the annual Landmine Monitor report.
Support from the British Government enables people to build houses on safe land, have safe routes to schools and allows land to be used productively for farming which communities depend upon to feed their children and earn a living. In Lebanon, 150 people will become redundant.
The annual Landmine Monitor report, released in November, said there were “exceptionally high numbers of casualties” in 2020 with more than a 20 percent increase on the previous year — with 2,492 people killed and 4,561 wounded.
These innocent deaths are a result of mines that were laid, in many cases, decades ago. For example, in Iraq, an area of contaminated land bigger than London is littered with mines from the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the Gulf War, the 2003 US-led invasion and the Isis occupation of 2014.
Mr Cormack said: “It's not right that children face being burned on the way to school. That shouldn't be the kind of deadly equation that people have to calculate.”
He added: “We want to make places where people don't feel like they have to flee abroad and I think our work contributes to that which can be a concern of the public.”
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson told Express.co.uk that over the last three years, UK investment has cleared mines from 406 million square metres of land, but “far-reaching impacts” of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UK’s economy “forced” them to take “tough but necessary decisions”, including aid reductions.
But Andrew Mitchell, former Secretary of State for International Development and Tory MP, told Express.co.uk: “It feels like a political rather than an economic decision.”
He believes “the amount is one percent of the borrowing last year for Covid”.
Mr Mitchell described mine clearing as “the finest tradition of British humanitarian aid and is an extremely important part of making Britain safer and more prosperous.”
Mr Cormack views mine clearance as a proudly “British endeavour.”
The UK was one of the founding signatories of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
He added: “many ex British military people building new lives and careers with “their expertise afforded by the British government.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is said to be reviewing the decision of cuts which was taken by her predecessor, Dominic Raab. But no word has been given since the review was announced two months ago.
Mr Cormack said: “We - and I think the charitable sector - have seen a more open listening posture from this Foreign Secretary than the previous one.”
Mr Cormack added: “Southeast Asia is a huge area where post-Brexit trade partnerships are being developed and to complement trade partnerships in places like Vietnam aid cuts need not to happen.”
Zimbabwe was getting closer to the prospect of being landmine-free and Mr Cormack says they don’t deserve to have “the rug pulled out completely, especially when Zimbabweans cleared British territory of landmines in the Falklands.”
Preet Kaur Gill, shadow cabinet minister for international development, told Express.co.uk: “We have stood shoulder to shoulder with our friends and allies across the world to ensure that British territories are declared mine free. Now, when the time has come to repay the favour, this Government has made the cowardly decision to back away.”
Just three years after Prince Harry and then DFID Secretary of State Priti Patellaunched an increased commitment to combat landmines, many countries face a bleak future.