In 2018, some 1,426 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 makes 2018 the third worst year for casualties since 2001. Children make up over 87% per cent of recent ERW 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 737,000 Anti-personnel (AP) mines, including 760 VOIEDs, and some 30,270 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 originally 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 when facing the VOIED threat which first emerged in 2010.
A total of 31,860 hazardous areas have been cleared or otherwise cancelled since 1989. This represents 2,990 communities and over 2,850 square kilometers of land released. Some 1,495 mine/ERW affected communities remain in Afghanistan.
Some 190,560 training sessions on explosive hazard risks were delivered to over 5 million individuals since June 2014.
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 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 3,920 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 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. 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 1397 (2018-19), UNMAS-contracted teams cleared some 13.6 square kilometres of explosive hazard contaminated land, destroying 960 AP mines, 39 AT mines and 16,302 ERW. This work benefitted 83 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 trainings 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.
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 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 archaeological excavation, tourism and business. They started their second clearance project of the last known-minefield in Bamyan in April 2019. Beyond the immediate lifesaving assistance, these women set an 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. Unfortunately, funding has dropped to 41 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 $85.1 million for clearance activities this year, out of a total budget request of $99.3 million; about half 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): Canada, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Netherlands, Finland and Japan. UNMAS also thanks 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, Slovenia, European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID, and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Updated: September 2019