In 2018, some 1,415 Afghan civilians were recorded to have been killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), the latter of which consist of munitions which failed to detonate when fired. This casualty rate is more than three times than the level recorded in 2012. Children make up over 80% per cent of ERW casualties, and one third of overall casualties. Victim operated improvised explosive devices (VOIEDs), and ERW, from more recent armed clashes caused 99 per cent of the casualties recorded in 2018.
Humanitarian mine action actors in Afghanistan have cleared more than 18 million items of ERW, some 733,000 Anti-Personnel Mines (APM), including 753 VOIEDs, and about 30,000 Anti-Vehicle (AV) mines since 1989. Newer contamination from recent fighting 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 (1980-1988) and the subsequent civil war period are less effective faced with the VOIED threat which first emerged in 2010.
A total of 31,548 hazardous areas have been cleared or otherwise cancelled since 1989. This represents 2,942 communities and over 2,838 square kilometers of land released. Some 1,504 mine/ERW affected communities remain in Afghanistan.
Over 28.9 million individual training sessions on explosive hazard risks have been delivered since 1989.
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 had 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 77 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 3,774 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.
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 obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. 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 Afghan year 1396 (2017-18), UNMAS-contracted teams cleared some 7.5 square kilometers of explosive hazard contaminated land, destroying 22,259 AP mines, 248 AT mines and 64,245 ERW. This work benefitted 126 communities.
Emergency Humanitarian Response in Ghazni: In August 2018, heavy fighting pitting Afghan government forces against the Taliban broke out in Ghazni province. Mine action operators responded quickly, providing risk education to over 8,000 Afghan civilians. These operators destroyed some 106 items of ERW, including an unexploded aircraft bomb found in Godule Ahangaran village. Given that there were reports of ERW contamination in harder to reach areas of Ghazni, UNMAS worked with various stakeholders to access outlying areas.
Almar District Girl’s Central School, Faryab Province: In December 2018, UNMAS responded to an urgent request of 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 recently took their exams before winter break. “I’m happy our students were able to continue their education,” said Mr. 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 non-technical survey and demining techniques. They released 51,520 square metres of mine/ERW affected land back to their community in Bamyan province. They also participated in vocational trainings, on topics such as archeological excavation, tourism and business. Beyond the immediate lifesaving assistance these women provide to their communities, they also set a good example through their meaningful and impactful participation in mine action, and the development of their community.
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. However, funding has dropped to 41 per cent of what it was in 2011. This 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 $85.1 million for clearance activities this year, out of a total budget request of $99.3 million; about half of this 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 (1397: March 2018 – April 2019): Australia, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Finland, Japan and New Zealand. UNMAS also thanks the following donors for continued bilateral support to the whole 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, United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID.
Updated: February 2019