Since 1989, about 37,909 Afghan civilians were recorded to have been killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), the latter of which consists of munitions which failed to detonate when fired. Anti-personnel mines of an improvised nature (APM/IN) and ERW from more recent armed clashes caused 98 per cent of the casualties recorded in 2019. In the same year, 77 per cent of the ERW casualties were children.
The number of women and girls among casualties has increased by 126 per cent from 2010 to 2019. One of the main contributing factors to this increase is the higher number of APM/IN incidents on local vehicles. To avoid further loss of life and life-altering injuries, UNMAS and its implementing partners provided Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) to 140,092 women and girls across the country in 2019. More than 4 million women and girls received formal and non- formal risk education since the start of the program in 1989.
A total of 32,441 hazardous areas have been cleared or otherwise cancelled since 1989. This represents over 3,101 square kilometres of land released for productive use to 3,084 communities. Some 1,482 mines/ERW affected communities remain in Afghanistan.
Explosive Ordnance Risk Education was delivered to over 10 million individuals since the start of the program which includes people who attended for the first time and additional sessions.
The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) was established in 1989. In 2012, the Afghan Directorate for Mine Action Coordination (DMAC) began to execute aspects of the programme management of the MAPA in direct collaboration with UNMAS.
As of 1 June 2018, the DMAC absorbed all Afghan technical mine action personnel previously employed by UNMAS. The Afghan Government has asked UNMAS for continued technical support beyond 2018, in areas such as strategic planning and advocacy, resource mobilization, and funds management and contracting.
While some 79.2 per cent of the known minefields and battle areas have now been cleared, Afghanistan remains one of the countries most affected by landmines and ERW. Some 3,743 identified hazards remain, impeding development by delaying the construction of new road networks, airports, transmission lines, and returnee settlement. Due to evolving conflict dynamics, Afghanistan’s humanitarian mine action needs are now as great as they have ever been.
Mixed-gender Risk Education Teams: To reduce human suffering by promoting safe behaviour, UNMAS and its implementing partners provide risk education to communities affected by the conflict in Afghanistan. Currently, 90 per cent of all mine action projects across the country deploy mixed-gender risk education teams. Within the community, this allows men and women to attend separate risk education sessions on the risks posed by explosive ordnance. Gul Bibi, 60, from Hairatan village in Balkh Province received risk education with her children and explained, “These sessions were very informative! I can now use the information I learned to keep my family safe. I now understand the real dangers of unexploded ordnances and mines. These sessions will have a positive impact on my household.”
Victim Assistance: “As a mother in the family, receiving the high-tech prosthetics has enabled me to do more household chores with less trouble and look after my children,” said Ms. Sherin, 33, a resident of Ghoryan district in Herat Province. A recipient of high-tech prosthetics, Ms. Sherin now can peel potatoes and cook for her children and swing the cradle of her baby daughter. With the support of the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), UNMAS provided high-tech prosthetic devices to eleven beneficiaries in 2017. UNMAS Afghanistan will continue to advocate for the mine and explosive remnants of war victims’ needs.
Almar District Girls’ Central School: In December 2018, UNMAS responded to an urgent request from the Ministry of Education to clear ERW contamination in and around the Girls Central High School of Almar district in Faryab. The site saw a 40-day battle between insurgents and Government forces. UNMAS and its partners cleared the site, including the safe removal of a rocket-propelled grenade from the wall of the school. As a result, students were able to attend school and take their exams before winter break. “I’m happy our students were able to continue their education,” said Ms. Kamal, the school principal.
Women in Mine Action: For the first time in the 30-year history of humanitarian mine action in Afghanistan, women began landmine clearance operations on 1 June 2018. Fourteen women were trained on the non-technical survey and demining techniques. They released 51,520 square meters of mine/ERW affected land back to their community in Bamyan province. They also participated in vocational training, on topics such as archaeological excavation, tourism and business. Many of them continued to work as deminers and contributed to clearing the last known minefield in Bamyan in 2019. The deminers are an inspiration for women around the world and were voted second in the Arms Control Association’s Arms Control Person(s) of the Year 2019 award.
Progress towards Mine Ban Treaty 2023 commitments: UNMAS assisted the Government of Afghanistan to successfully request a ten-year extension to complete its clearance obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in 2012. A detailed work plan to achieve mine-free status by 2023 was developed, and DMAC and its accredited implementing partners continue to make progress towards this end. In the Afghan year 1398 (April 2019 - March 2020), UNMAS-contracted teams cleared some 25.4 square kilometres of explosive hazard contaminated land, destroying 1,300 AP mines, 142 AT mines and 1,536 ERW. This work benefited 180 communities.
Conflict Sensitivity: In the current context of the ongoing armed conflict, there is a need for a nuanced understanding of conflict dynamics, do no harm principles and conflict-sensitive approaches to improve planning and implementation of humanitarian demining projects. To support this, UNMAS designed a conflict sensitivity project to be completed in three phases. The first is to mainstream conflict sensitivity into key documents utilised by UNMAS and DMAC; the second is to conduct conflict sensitivity training for implementing partners, UNMAS and DMAC personnel; lastly, to coach UNMAS and its partners through action plans to improve and mainstream conflict-sensitive approaches into their organizations throughout 2019 and 2020
Increased financing is critical to realizing Afghanistan’s plan to be anti-personnel mine-free by 2023, in line with the country’s obligations under the Ottawa Treaty. Unfortunately, funding has dropped to 15 per cent of what it was in 2011 which has contributed to Afghanistan falling behind on its Ottawa Treaty 2023 commitments. To meet international obligations and address new threats to civilians as a result of more recent armed clashes, Afghanistan has requested US $119 million for clearance activities this year, out of a total budget request of $129 million; about 85 per cent of the total annual budget remains unfunded.
UNMAS thanks the following donors for their generous support through the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for Assistance in Mine Action this Afghan year 1398 (March 2019 – April 2020): Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Netherlands, Denmark, New Zealand, CERF and Japan. UNMAS also thanks to the following donors for continued bilateral support to the MAPA, including DMAC: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Sweden, the United States of America, and European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).
Updated: May 2020