Mine clearing progresses in Afghanistan, but funding shortage looms – UN official

12 Jan 2009

Mine clearing progresses in Afghanistan, but funding shortage looms – UN official

KABUL - More than 82,000 anti-personnel mines were cleared in Afghanistan in 2008, but the funding needed to meet the 2013 demining completion goal – around $500 million – is threatened by the world economic situation, a senior United Nations official said today.

“We are at a very critical point, and this country and people cannot afford to see a devastating situation where not much money will come,” Haider Reza, Programme Director of the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA), told a news conference in Kabul today, noting that he would be tapping new donors, such as the Gulf States, in addition to “traditional” ones.

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and more than four million Afghans are living in mine-contaminated areas.

The anti-personnel mines plus 900 anti-tank mines cleared this past year represent well over 20 per cent of all mines cleared from the country since 1989. Some 49.5 square kilometres of land have been cleared, meaning that around 500 communities have been given back their land, Mr. Reza said.

According to the Ottawa Convention on landmines, however, Afghanistan must be completely cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) by 2013, and the Afghanistan Compact calls for 70 per cent of explosive-infested land to be cleared by 2011.

Launched in January 2006, the Compact is the framework for partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community to help bolster the war-torn country’s security, economic development and counter-narcotics efforts.

Explosives clearance has been called crucial for the country’s development, and Mr. Reza pointed out that just yesterday he had visited a copper mine in Logar province where a Chinese company intends to start extraction work as soon as the treacherous remnants of war are removed.

UNMACA estimates that one third of Afghanistan’s territory still needs to be cleared by the 2013 deadline. Mr. Reza said he felt the goal was achievable.

“If the resources flow into the programme, we have the technical capacity and we can do the job,” he said.

“God forbid that the security situation throughout the country, especially in areas where we have to do the job, deteriorates to the extent that would not allow our de-miners to do their job. Otherwise, I am very confident we will make it,” he added.

Website: Mine Action Coordination Centre for Afghanistan (MACCA)