Issue 6.1, April 2002


The Mine Action Program for Afghanistan


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The United Nation’s Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA) combines the efforts of numerous Mine Action Centers (MACs) and local NGOs in order to form one of the most comprehensive mine action programs in the world. Operating under the direction of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA), MAPA has successfully located and destroyed 1,629,605 landmines/UXO and cleared 230,440,706 square meters of mined area and 339,579,010 square meters of battlefield area.

by Susanna Sprinkel, MAIC

An Afghan landmine detection and disposal worker from HALO Trust clears mines from the shoulder of a road.
c/o AP


Years of controversy have left Afghanistan as the country most severely affected by landmines, with an estimated 150 to 300 landmine/UXO-related fatalities each month. These artilleries add an unnecessary burden to the lives of many who already suffer on a daily basis from numerous other hardships. As a result, Afghanistan has developed one of the strongest Mine Action Programs in the world. The Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA) was developed in 1989 and has been working under supervision the of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) ever since.

This program combines the efforts of six Mine Action Centers (MACs)—the UN Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (MACA) and five Regional Mine Action Centers (RMACs) designated in the central, southern, northern, eastern and western regions of Afghanistan—as well as 15 local NGOs in order to provide extensive coverage of all areas of mine action (for more information on partner NGOs, see Table 1 below). UNOCHA, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) are responsible for developing the structure of MAPA, and they have designated specific responsibilities to each of the bodies involved.

table 1    
Abbreviation Organization Staff
HALO Trust
Afghan Technical Consultants
Demining Agency For Afghanistan
Mine Clearance Planning Agency
Mine Detection Center
Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation
Monitoring Evaluation and Training Agency
Hazardous Areas Life Support Organization
Agency for Rehabilitation and Energy Conservation in Afghanistan
Afghan Mine Awareness Agency
Save the Children (USA)
Handicap International
Ansar Relief Institute
Danish Demining Group
Afghan Red Crescent Society
BBC Afghan Education Project
    Total: 4,738

Coordination of Mine Action Activities

Designated Responsibilities

UNOCHA, UNDP and UNMAS have requested that all mine action activities be planned and coordinated by MACA and the Mine Clearance and Planning Agency (MCPA). Specifically, these bodies are responsible for the following operations:

  • Planning all mine action strategies and operations.

  • Developing a set of mine action standards and policies.

  • Overseeing MAPA activities and assuring quality.

  • Implementing necessary programs and support for field operations.

  • Securing and distributing required resources for all mine action programs.

  • Organizing mine action technology.

  • Managing and distributing mine-related information.

Goals for 2002

As outlined in their 2002 Project Plan (available at, the United Nations has established the following goals for coordination activities:

  • Implementing a work plan for all mine action activities by contributing bodies.

  • Developing a plan for further expanding MAPA, in order to meet increased demands that have arisen from the current political situation in the country.

  • Formulating a seven-year plan to clear Afghanistan’s lands to a moderate level.

  • Creating an approach for destroying stockpiles.

  • Supplying periodic reports to donors on the funds received by MAPA.

  • Forming an administrative contract among contributing NGOs.

  • Preparing data on the mine threat to be used both locally and globally.

  • Providing necessary support to preserve and expand mine action activities throughout the region.

Survey Operations

Designated Responsibilities

The United Nations has appointed all survey operations in Afghanistan to MACA, MCPA, the Mine Dog Center (MDC), Halo Trust and the Danish Demining Group (DDG). These organizations are responsible for identifying, marking and mapping all hazardous areas as well as distributing data regarding these territories. Specifically, these bodies should complete the following objectives:

  • Reducing the amount of territory to be surveyed by pinpointing and clearly marking hazardous areas.

  • Performing a Post-Conflict Contamination Assessment in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) in order to determine the extent of the landmine threat resulting from air strikes and recent conflicts.

  • Conducting a Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) in conjunction with the Survey Working Group.

  • Gathering detailed information on the technical and socioeconomic impact in contaminated regions in order to set priorities for clearance, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and mine awareness operations.

  • Evaluating and distributing information gathered through the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) and contributing accurate and up-to-date data on the landmine situation.

  • Informing Afghani civilians of the landmine/UXO threat in their region

  • Allocating improved data with humanitarian assistance and developmental aid personnel.

Goals for 2002

In 2002, the United Nations anticipates the following accomplishments for Survey Operations in Afghanistan:

  • Marking 30 square km of mine fields and 50 square km of battle area as well as surveying and reducing 200 square km of potentially contaminated areas

  • Identifying mine-free land for agricultural development, irrigation, grazing and other productive use by Afghani citizens returning to their native lands.

  • Verifying and reopening hazard-free trade routes in order to increase mobility both socially and economically.

  • Reducing fatalities and relieving the patient load on the medical and health care system by clearly marking hazardous areas and establishing effective awareness programs in affected areas as well as discouraging refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from returning to hazardous areas.

  • Helping other mine action operations concentrate on high-priority territories, thus accelerating the capabilities of MACA for planning strategies and activities and effectively managing the budget.

  • Making mine-related data easier to access, thus permitting more efficient preparations.

Landmine and UXO Clearance Activities

Designated Responsibilities

All landmine and UXO clearance activities have been conducted by the Agency for Rehabilitation and Energy Conservation in Afghanistan (AREA), Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), the Demining Agency for Afghanistan (DAFA), DDG, HALO Trust, MDC, Handicap International (HI) and the Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR). In order to eliminate the landmine threat in Afghani territory and return the land to productive use, these NGOs have been designated the following tasks:

  • Restoring capabilities of MAPA activities that were hindered as a result of the September 11th conflict.

  • Helping other organizations safely implement relief operations by clearing access roads and land for aid centers.

  • Clearing high-priority territories and marking low-priority zones.

  • Assisting bodies conducting security evaluations and performing emergency assistance in the country.

  • Performing EOD and emergency clearance operations.

  • Retraining all personnel and fully restoring all mine action resources throughout Afghanistan.

  • Further building the MAPA capacity by relocating all MAPA affiliates from Pakistan to Afghanistan and reinforcing the RMACs.

  • Obtaining and distributing new equipment.

Goals for 2002

The United Nations is asking clearance teams to aim for the following objectives over the next year:

  • Clearing at least 35 square km of high priority mine fields and 60 km2 of high priority UXO contaminated battlefields.

  • Clearing all cluster bombs dropped as a result of the September 11th conflict.

  • Marking at least 30 km2 of mine fields and 50 km2 of battlefields.

  • Formulating a stockpile destruction strategy and destroying all stockpiles as a result.

  • Supplying clear territory for agriculture, irrigation, grazing and other productive use.

  • Clearing major trade routes in order to increase mobility both socially and economically.

  • Opening and increasing access to settlement areas in order to migrate refugees and IDPs back into their native lands.

  • Reducing fatalities in the area, thus relieving the patient load in medical and health care systems by eliminating the landmine threat.

  • Advancing reconstructive activities in the country by providing a safe environment for relief and recovery personnel.

  • Building a strong foundation for contributing organizations to conduct clearance operations on low priority areas without UN assistance.

In addition to these goals for 2002, MAPA, HALO Trust and DDG hope to expand their clearance teams as shown in Table 2.

 table 2      
Program MAPA HALO Trust DDG

Manual Clearance Teams

87 (from 68)

42 (from 29)

4 (from 3)

Mechanical Clearance Teams

24 (from 19)

9 (from 7)

2(from 0)

EOD Teams

33 (from 27)





18 (from 14)

12 (from 4)

Mine Dog Teams

24 (from 17)



Mine Dog Sets

46 (from 31)



Survey Teams


21 (from 13)


Quality Assurance

Designated Responsibilities

In order to assure that MAPA activities are conducted safely, efficiently and cost-effectively, the United Nations has appointed the Monitoring, Evaluation and Training Agency (META) to perform Quality Assurance (QA) of all mine action operations. The procedures of this program include:

  • Observing all mine action NGOs to be sure they are following all national and International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) in their operations.

  • Continuously researching and acquiring methods for implementing the safest and most effective programs.

  • Examining the cause of all demining fatalities, in order to develop improved techniques.

  • Training all mine action personnel and developing efficient training programs, including refresher training courses in order to maintain and improve skills for locating and destroying newly laid artilleries.

  • Planning and executing training for basic management and leadership positions on supervising, planning and conducting tasks and organizing senior and middle management courses on overseeing and formulating mine action activities.

  • Developing training programs for mine awareness programs geared towards specific regions.

  • Designing and distributing supplementary materials for reference, assistance or additional training.

  • Forming a national standards guideline based on IMAS.

  • Investigating the use of new mine action technologies in Afghani regions.

Goals for 2002

By the end of 2002, the United Nations hopes to improve QA in the following areas:

  • Improving the safety and effectiveness of all MAPA operations.

  • Preparing EOD teams to handle cluster bombs and other newly dropped munitions, by implementing 17 Battle Area Clearance Courses (BAC).

  • Performing refresher training in all areas of mine action and creating and distributing technical and training manuals to MAPA employees.

  • Observing 252 mechanical and mine clearance, BAC, EOD, mine dog and survey team operations.

  • Completing three Middle Management training courses integrating information on operating mine action organizations.

  • Forming and implementing a Mine Risk Education (MRE) training and assessment program.

Mine Awareness

Designated Responsibilities

In order to reduce the number of landmine and UXO-related accidents in Afghanistan, the United Nations has assigned the following NGOs the responsibility of conducting mine awareness initiatives: ARI, Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), AREA, British Broadcasting Corporation/Afghan Education Program (BBC/AEP), UNICEF, HALO Trust, HI, META, OMAR and Save the Children (SC-USA). The MAPA Mine Awareness program intends not only to increase awareness throughout the country but also to build relations with institutional and governmental allies. Specifically, these NGOs should implement the following responsibilities:

  • Incorporating a wide range of Mine Awareness activities into mine action and other humanitarian assistance programs both globally and locally.

  • Increasing the data collected and evaluated in order to further advance mine awareness programs.

  • Examining MRE tactics and expanding the curriculum.

  • Improving MRE standards and establishing a set of guidelines for assessing training methods.

  • Further building a collection and analysis of information on mine casualties.

  • Formulating a plan for targeting specific groups by examining established training and educational materials.

  • Designing training kits for teachers and other Mine Awareness volunteers.

  • Establishing a collection of "lessons learned" information in order to improve techniques used by other organizations.

  • Evaluating previous communication through mass media in order to improve methods.

Goals for 2002

Over the course of 2002, the Mine Awareness personnel have been allocated the following goals:

  • Preparing and employing 106 additional MRE staff.

  • Forming MRE teams to assist refugees returning in main camps.

  • Preparing 70 Mine Awareness personnel to work with survey and clearance teams.

  • Conducting landmine/UXO safety programs for relief workers in five centers.

  • Developing and distributing 5,000 field manuals and 1,000 master trainer manuals to improve MRE teaching techniques and 5,000 training kits on developing Mine Awareness materials.

  • Performing three workshops on forming Mine Awareness programs in schools.

  • Extending the growth of Mine Awareness programs through mass media.

  • Relieving the patient load on medical and health care systems, by reducing the number of casualties related to landmines/UXO and decreasing the number of mine victims needing rehabilitation.

  • Increasing reports on landmines and UXO, by preparing civilians to correctly identify and respond to these munitions.


Through extensive planning and operations, MAPA hopes to ease human suffering through various mine clearance, Mine Awareness and other activities. In addition, they aim to help refugees and IDPs re-establish their lives in Afghanistan, by clearing areas for settlement and making them aware of the mine hazards in each region. They also intend to secure a food supply for civilians, by clearing agricultural and grazing land and making them available for productive use. By clearing land, buildings and major roadways in the country, MAPA can also help other organizations safely implement relief, development and rehabilitative programs for the Afghani people. Finally, MAPA has helped build Afghanistan’s economy, by providing work for more than 4700 Afghani people, and they will continue to provide further employment opportunities in the future.

Figure 1: High Priority Mined Area Remaining to be Cleared as of April, 2001

Since its development in 1989 and up until April 2001, MAPA’s mine action personnel have cleared 230,440,706 sq m of mined area and 339,579,010 sq m of battlefield area. Approximately 728.42 sq km remain to be cleared, with 350.23 sq km marked high priority (for more information see Figure 1). Additionally, MAPA’s survey teams have surveyed over 302,960,491 sq m of mined area and 368,588,900 sq m of battlefield area. Overall, MAPA personnel have successfully located and destroyed 1,629,605 munitions, including 10,127 AT mines, 219,730 AP mines and 1,399,748 pieces of UXO. After the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, all mine action programs were severely hindered as a result of security conditions in Afghanistan, so they were unable to reach their goals for 2001. However, at least 90 percent of mine action personnel have returned to the country, prepared to respond to new conditions and munitions, as of January 2002.

For more information on the current mine action situation in response to September 11th terrorist attacks see Update on Current Mine Action Situation in Afghanistan

*All tables and maps courtesy of UNMAS.

Contact Information

Crispin Stephen
United Nations Mine Action Service
304 E 45th Street, Room FF-370
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 212-963-6975
Fax: 212-963-2498

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