UN praises selflessness & commitment of Afghan deminers
KABUL - Deminers risk their lives in the service of protecting others and create access for vital development and reconstruction activities to take place, said Mark Bowden, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan at an event marking the international day for mine awareness.
Wais Ahmad Barmak, State Minister for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs also addressed the audience of around 100 people which included officials from national and international de-mining agencies, donor representatives, journalists and UN officials.
Praising the selflessness and commitment of deminers, Mr. Bowden said they face not only the hazards of their work, but also the risk of attack getting to and from the worksite and while doing the job. Just yesterday media reported that 15 de-miners had been abducted in western Herat province.
The existence of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan still poses a serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Afghan citizens. During 2015, 388 Afghans were killed or injured by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). In addition, pressure-plate improvised explosive devices were a major danger, causing 1,051 civilian casualties (including 459 deaths) in 2015, according to a UNAMA report.
Mr. Bowden said the work of deminers makes possible “the access for other humanitarian actors to undertake development and reconstruction activities, and lays the foundations of a sustainable peace. Last year in Kunduz it was the demining organizations who were the first responders to enter the city and begin the task of clearing landmines and unexploded remnants of war.”
Mr. Barmak said more than three-quarters of contaminated land in Afghanistan has been cleared, involving the destruction of some 19 million mines and ERW. Yet, 4,200 contaminated areas covering over 600 square kilometres of land remain.
Based on the Ottawa convention, Afghanistan needs to free the country of mines and ERW by 2013 at an estimated cost of up to $550 million, said Mr. Barmak.
Mr. Bowden said the UN is entirely committed to the process of transitioning the demining to the government and will continue to advance towards the goal of sustainable national ownership leading to the complete elimination of mines and explosive remnants of war by 2023.
The Kabul event included endorsement of Afghanistan’s five-year National Mine Action Strategic Plan to 2020, the screening of a documentary film, “A deminer’s story” and an exhibition of de-mining equipement.
International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action is marked globally on 4 April.