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A mountainous land-locked country, Afghanistan possesses a
long history of civilization that stretches back five thousand years. Soviet
troops invaded Afghanistan in late 1979 after insurrection weakened the
government’s control. By 1989, the unpopular war resulted in a Soviet
withdrawal that left Afghanistan to its raging civil war. The Taliban emerged
from the south and presently controls about 95 percent of the country. The
northern territory is controlled by the opposition coalition that in 1997 took
the name United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan.
Landmine / UXO
The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan
(MAPA), the United
Nation’s oldest mine action program, states that 732 sq km of land are
contaminated by landmines, of which 590 sq km have been designated high-priority
land. However, some parts of the country are not accessible, and MAPA states
that the "full extent of the problem in Afghanistan is yet to be
determined." Afghanistan’s landmine/UXO problem hinders the country’s
rehabilitation and redevelopment and has caused the displacement of more than
six million refugees.
Since 1979, an estimated 400,000 people have been disabled by
landmines and UXO. The number of male landmine victims is dramatically higher
(95 percent) than female victims because women are not allowed in public without
a close male family member. Most mine accidents take place far from roads or
means of transportation, and the journey to medical aid can take many hours.
MAPA’s mine clearance in Afghanistan consists of Manual
Clearance Teams (MCT), Mine Dog Groups (MDG), which are combined manual and dog teams,
a Mechanical Excavation Team (MET), Battle Area
Clearance (BAC) teams, bomb disposal/EOD teams, community-based manual clearance
teams and mine survey teams. MAPA implements mine action activities primarily
through indigenous NGOs and a few international NGOs and maintains cooperation
with Afghan authorities through the Department of Mine Clearance (DMC). No
Afghan government agencies are directly engaged in demining or mine awareness.
The years of war have crippled Afghanistan’s economy and destroyed the
country’s infrastructure. In the categories of greatest poverty and least
development, the UNDP rates Afghanistan 171 out of 173 countries. Besides civil
war and the repressive Taliban regime, the people of Afghanistan are suffering
from the worst drought in 30 years; the United Nations estimates as many as five
million people could die of starvation this year if not given aid.
Richard Dan Kelly
Acting Programme Manager
Mine Action Center for
House 292, Street 55, F-10/4
P.O. Box 1809
Tel: (92 51) 211 451
Fax: (92 51) 211 450