“Remarkable progress has been made in eliminating the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war, but more work is required,” senior UN Development Programme (UNDP) official Neil Buhne said in launching the 2011 edition of the annual Portfolio of Mine Action Projects.The combined 2011 budgets for 238 projects in 29 countries and territories total $498 million, of which only $131 million have been secured as of last month, leaving a $367-millon shortfall.Mr. Buhne, Director of the Geneva Liaison Office of the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, noted that more than 65 countries are affected by landmines or explosive remnants, which claimed nearly 4,000 casualties, a third of them children, in 2009. “Landmines and explosive remnants of war also take a heavy toll on people’s livelihoods, countries’ economic and social development, and international peacebuilding efforts,” he said. UN support ranges from building the capacities of national mine action institutions to backstopping humanitarian relief initiatives and ensuring the safe deployment of peacekeepers and UN political missions. Clearance activities account for 36 per cent of this year’s shortfall, while projects covering multiple elements such as capacity building and coordination amount to a further 55 per cent.“With International Mine Awareness Day coming up on 4 April, the urgent and compelling need to protect civilians from landmines and explosive remnants of war is rightly attracting media attention,” UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Director Maxwell Kerley said. “We must continue to raise awareness about the impact of these indiscriminate weapons.”The portfolio is an annual snapshot of the impact of such weapons in countries or territories with mine action programmes, providing proposals for projects and detailing their costs. The largest funding gap is for Sudan, which has requested the largest amount – $71 million. The smallest amount requested is for the occupied Palestinian territory – $494,000.Seventy-one agencies, including UN bodies, governments and international or national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), submitted proposals. Many projects will help remove and destroy cluster munitions, teach people how to stay out of harm’s way, and assist victims of these devices in countries such as Cambodia, Chad, Laos, Lebanon, Tajikistan and Somalia.Fourteen United Nations departments, programmes, agencies and funds are involved in mine action. The portfolio is published jointly by the UNMAS, UNDP and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 18 March 2011The United Nations today appealed to the world community to make up a huge shortfall in this year’s nearly half-billion-dollar programme to clean up mines and other remnants of war, which claim thousands of victims annually long after the conflicts that spawned them have ended.