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Students Report on Worldwide Landmine Problem


The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says there are nine new landmine victims around the world every day. A group of young people from the United States recently went overseas to investigate the problem.

Melanie Saltzman is a student at Northwestern University’s Medill Graduate School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois. She recently traveled half way around the world to Cambodia. She met there with members of a rural community who have suffered horrible injuries from landmine accidents.

Cambodia has one of the largest populations of amputees – individuals who have had an arm or leg removed.

“So I knew that I wanted to go there and meet people on the ground and see how survivors were affected.”

Melanie Saltzman met a 17-year-old girl who had lost a leg a month earlier. She says the girl was frightened.

“I wanted to tell this story because I wanted to see what survivors go through on a daily basis long after landmines are gone, or long after accidents have happened.”

Ms. Saltzman was part of a team of students from the Medill Graduate School of Journalism. They studied the effects of landmines and cluster bombs around the world and what steps the United States is taking to disarm them. The U.S. government is spending $3.2 billion on the cleanup effort.

Josh Meyer led the student journalism project.

“Each year, we pick a topic that we think is a real substantive topic for the students to tackle … something that is going to give us a good story one way or the other that will allow them to travel internationally, and this year we picked landmines and cluster munitions.”

In addition to Cambodia, students also reported from Jordan, Mozambique, Ukraine and a still-active battle area: Iraq. Matthew Schehl studied mine clearance operations in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“It was exhilarating. It’s what we’ve invested so much time in researching this topic and to be out there in the field face-to-face with people who are actually doing this work was magnificent. I’m a (military) veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and I have a personal investment in the country. And so, I think the subject matter is something which speaks very directly to me.”

Matthew Schehl carried out his investigation for the Medill Graduate School of Journalism’s National Security Reporting Project. The project deals with issues related to defense, security and civil liberties.

Josh Meyer was happy with all the work this year.

“Getting them out there, traveling to places like this, I think, is just a really cool experience for the students, and they really do learn things that you can’t just learn in a classroom.”

The United States is a world leader in landmine cleanup work. But the students found a lot more still needs to be done to disarm and remove these weapons.

Their findings were published on GlobalPost, an award-winning digital journalism website. The site was created especially for their projects.

Based on her trip to Cambodia, Melanie Saltzman produced a film. It is called Living with the Legacy of War.

“By producing stories and by showing survivors and the needs that are still out there, and humanizing it, you hope that it will encourage not only people, but also governments to stand up and do even more.”

I’m Bob Doughty.

VOA’s Julie Taboh researched and prepared this report. George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

landmine(s) n. a bomb that is buried in the ground

journalismn. the job of collecting, writing and publishing stories for newspapers, magazines or other media

amputee(s)n. someone who lost an arm or a leg

munition(s) – n. arms or weapons; a shortened form of the word ammunition

exhilaratingadj. causing someone to feel excited or happy

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