Australia is to spend an extra $1.5 million on landmine
clearance in Sri Lanka and $3.5 million to promote the countryís recovery from the
long civil war.
Parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Bruce Billson said
20 years of civil conflict has devastated much of Sri Lanka, claiming more than
64,000 lives and leaving a deadly legacy of some 700,000 landmines.
Billson, who is visiting Sri Lanka on the way to attend the
Nairobi Summit on a Mine Free World, said those mines were still claiming lives
and contaminating farmlands and roads.
"This latest Australian mine action funding will be channelled
through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Swiss Foundation for
Mine Action (FSD)," he said in a statement.
"Clearance operations and mine surveying conducted by FSD will
receive $1 million which will also assist in assessing the impact of mines on
Billson said the UNDPís Mine Action Program would receive
$550,000 to help Sri Lanka develop local skills to manage a mine action program.
Australia will also provide funds for three UNDP Mine Action
field offices to help ensure the effectiveness of local surveying and mine removal
Billson said the support of Australia and other donors had seen
the number of mine-related incidents fall from up to 20 a month immediately after
the ceasefire in 2002 to about seven a month.
He said Australia had supported the clearance of 6,656
anti-personnel landmines from more than 227,000 square metres of land, the
equivalent of 35 soccer fields.
Billson said Australia would also provide $2.5 million to the
United Nations Childrenís Fund to rebuild schools and provide catch-up education
for conflict-affected children and also help young landmine victims resume their
Another $1 million will go to the UN Development Program, which
aims to significantly enhance local living standards by funding the construction
of irrigation channels and roads to improve agricultural production and market
"The humanitarian funding will provide an important boost to
the economies of the conflict-affected east coast districts of Trincomalee,
Batticaloa and Ampara," he said.