Countdown to mine awareness day in Afghanistan
KABUL - This week the United Nations in Afghanistan is highlighting de-mining and mine awareness in the lead up to the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action marked every year on 4 April.
Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and more than four million Afghans are living in mine-contaminated areas.
According to the Ottawa Convention on landmines, Afghanistan must be completely cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) by 2013, and the Afghanistan Compact (launched in 2006) calls for 70 per cent of explosive-infested land to be cleared by 2011.
Estimates suggest that one third of Afghanistan’s territory still needs to be cleared by the 2013 deadline.
The UN Secretary-General’s report on Afghanistan to the Security Council earlier this month noted: "During the second half of 2008, over 42,000 anti-personnel mines, 500 anti-tank mines and 1.5 million explosive remnants of war were destroyed and hundreds of communities had their land freed from the threat of mines. Mine-risk education reached 800,000 Afghans. Advocacy for the rights of landmine survivors and other persons with disabilities continued."
From 1989 to the end of 2007 more than 380,000 anti-personnel mines and 20,000 anti-tank mines were destroyed. In 2008 alone 82,000 anti-personnel mines and 900 anti-tank mines were destroyed and 49.5 square kilometres of land was cleared enabling some 500 communities to return to their lands.
"Despite these achievements mines remain a major threat to human life, peace and security in the country, with an estimated 2,082 contaminated communities still in Afghanistan. Progress continues to be hampered by a funding shortfall, with an estimated $53 million in additional funds required in 2009 to ensure reaching the Afghanistan Compact benchmarks," the Secretary-General’s report said.
De-mining operations are further at risk by a $500 million funding shortfall if the 2013 de-mining completion goal is to be met .
In 2008 the mine action programme in Afghanistan reported that 50 de-miners were either killed or injured while performing their work. Approximately 50 people a month were also victims of mines and unexploded ordinance in Afghanistan compared to 150 a month three years ago.
The International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action was established by a United Nations Security Council resolution in 2005 as a way of drawing attention to the global problem of landmines.
On mine action day last year UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the day “serves as a reminder that without proper support, survivors of landmines and explosive remnants of war may face a lifetime of poverty and discrimination, lacking adequate health care or rehabilitation services.”