As of August 2018, 785 Afghans were killed or injured by landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and victim operated improvised explosive devices (VOIED). The presence of ERW from post-2001-armed clashes, and VOIEDs, which are largely pressure plate type devices is once again a priority humanitarian concern in Afghanistan. UNMAS is working with the Afghan mine action authority and other mine action stakeholders on a plan to bring these alarming casualty numbers down as soon as possible.
Humanitarian mine action actors in Afghanistan have cleared 18 million items of ERW, 728,599 Anti-Personnel Mines (APM) over 750 VOIEDs, and about 30,032 Anti-Tank (AT) mines since 1989. Newer contamination poses a challenge to the national mine action programme as traditional humanitarian mine action advocacy, risk education and clearance approaches developed to deal with legacy landmine and ERW contamination from the Soviet-Afghan War and the subsequent civil war period are significantly less effective faced with these new threats.
A total of 31,225 hazardous areas have been cleared or otherwise cancelled since 1989. This represents 2,945 communities and some 2,793 square kilometers of land released.
Over 26.1 million individuals have been trained on explosive hazard risk education by humanitarian mine action actors.
The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) was established in 1989. In 2012, as preparations began for a ten-year extension request for the Mine Ban Treaty, the Afghan Directorate for Mine Action Coordination (DMAC) formally 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 the 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 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 3,686 identified hazards remain, impeding development by delaying the construction of new road networks, airports, transmission lines and returnee settlement. Afghanistan’s humanitarian mine action needs are now as great as they have ever been.
Progress towards the Mine Ban Treaty 2023 commitments and the challenge of new contamination: UNMAS assisted the Government of Afghanistan to successfully request a ten-year extension to complete its clearance commitments under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. A detailed work plan to achieve mine-free status by 2023 was developed, and DMAC and its partners continue to make progress towards this end. However, funding shortfalls have meant that annual humanitarian clearance targets have not been met. In Afghan year 1396 (2017-18), UNMAS-contracted teams cleared some 7.5 square kilometers of explosive hazard contaminated land, destroying 426 AP mines, 66 AT mines and 1,653 ERW. We are on track to triple this rate of clearance in 1397. The Afghan Government recognizes that new contamination from VOIED adds to this commitment.
Emergency Humanitarian Response in Ghazni: In August 2018, heavy fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban broke out in Ghazni, which involved aerial bombardment, placement of IEDs and the use of artillery. Mine action community responded quickly by providing mine risk education to 7,691 beneficiaries and destroying 93 ERW and 10 small arms ammunitions. UNMAS is grateful to its international and national NGO partners, as well as DMAC for their continued efforts in community liaison.
Agro District, Badakshan, Free from Known Explosive Hazards: The clearance of an entire district requires a substantial amount of time and effort. The latest clearance project implemented by MCPA, one of the UNMAS’ national NGO partners, successfully removed 206 deadly devices in Argo district, Badakshan province from 15 May – 31 July 2018. Now the residents in Argo district can move freely without the fear of mines and ERW. With painstaking effort, the mine action community will continue to clear the remaining 1,505 mine/ERW affected communities in Afghanistan.
Women in Mine Action: For the first time in the 30-year history of mine action in Afghanistan, women began landmine clearance operations on 1 June 2018. Fourteen women have been trained on non-technical survey and demining techniques and aim to release 51,520 square meters of mine/ERW affected land back to their community in Bamyan province. They also participate in vocational training, such as archeological excavation, tourism and business skills, to sustain employment once the clearance is complete. Beyond the immediate lifesaving assistance these women provide to their communities, they also set an example through their impactful participation in mine action and the development of their community.
Sustained financing is critical to Afghanistan’s plan to be anti-personnel mine-free by 2023, in line with the country’s obligations under the Ottawa Treaty. However, funding has dropped to 41 per cent of what it was in 2011. This has caused Afghanistan to fall behind on its Ottawa Treaty 2023 commitments and has also undermined its ability to address new humanitarian needs. To meet international obligations and address new threats, Afghanistan has requested US $85.1 million for clearance activities this year out of a total budget of $99.3 million.
UNMAS thanks the following donors for their generous support through the Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for Assistance in Mine Action this Afghan year (1397): Australia, Belgium, Canada, United Kingdom (DFID), Finland, Japan and New Zealand. UNMAS also thanks the following donors for continued bilateral support to DMAC and the broader MAPA: Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Sweden, United States and United Kingdom (CSSF).
Updated: October 2018