(April 3, 2014) Kabul, Afghanistan. As the United Nations prepares to celebrate International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Afghanistan is preparing for an important milestone, the presidential election of April 5th. In this context, UNMAS Afghanistan is marking the day with a recommitment to ensuring a mine-free Afghanistan by 2023 and to building government capacity to manage the residual risk of Afghanistan’s decades-long conflict.
Dr Mohammad Daim Kakar, General Director of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), paid homage to the deminers working across the country under the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan: “On behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to our brave deminers who are fighting landmines, the hidden enemy, and explosive remnants of war, which continue to kill and maim innocent people.”
He added: “You are all Afghan heroes who put your lives at risk to save others. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan recognizes your efforts in making Afghanistan a country free of landmines and ERW. Your efforts will ensure our people live in a safe environment and can safely take part in the reconstruction and development of our beloved country.”
The theme of this year’s International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action focuses on the role of women in safeguarding the earth. The participation of women is essential at all stages of mine action, from surveying mined areas, to deciding where to begin clearance, to conducting mine risk education and post-clearance development initiatives. The ten-year work plan to clear Afghanistan of all known mines and ERW by 2023 ensures that the views all community members are taken into account when priority setting and planning to deliver a project. Currently, community liaison activities identify any gender-specific features in delivering each component of a project. Information on the way hazards impact women, girls, men and boys differently is analysed and the clearance plan is devised accordingly.
“I am continually inspired by the women I meet working in mine action here in Afghanistan. The problem of mines and ERW directly impacts on women, which is why we are doing everything in our power to involve women in the process and to address the remaining challenge,” said Abigail Hartley, Programme Manager at UNMAS Afghanistan.
She continued: “Mine action not only transforms land marred by conflict into a productive resource for Afghanistan; it also helps survivors become self-sufficient and active citizens so that they are seen as resources rather than victims in their communities. The removal of mines and explosive remnants of war is therefore an essential step on the road to restoring peace and stability for all the people of Afghanistan. We can be proud of what Afghanistan has achieved to date in clearing 78% of its contaminated land. On this day, we reaffirm our commitment to bringing about a mine-free Afghanistan by 2023.”
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan requested UNMAS to assist it in the coordination mine action in the country, covering clearance, survey, mine/ERW risk education, victim assistance, and advocacy. The Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA) is an UNMAS project and works closely with the Afghan Government’s Department of Mine Clearance (DMC) under the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority to fulfil this function.
The programme coordinated by MACCA, the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA), has a 25-year history of success, having cleared over three quarters of the country’s known hazardous areas and reducing the number of civilian casualties. However, Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily landmine-affected countries in the world.
While there has been an 80% reduction in civilian casualties since 2001, Afghanistan still suffered more civilian casualties in 2013 than Cambodia, Colombia or Iraq, having recorded an average of 37 casualties per month.
Despite the extent of the problem, the progress made so far in the first year of the work plan, 2013-14, indicates that mine action will be more cost-efficient and more productive in the coming years. While the clearance of the remaining hazards is spread over ten years, Afghanistan could achieve its goals in five years if the support of donors in recent years can be maintained at the same level as in recent years. The programme has a coordinated plan and technically capable personnel to achieve completion; it simply needs the funding to deliver.
The Director of MACCA, Mr Mohammad Sediq Rashid, spoke of the programme’s ability to solve Afghanistan’s mine and ERW problem provided donors maintain their support: “This is an uncertain time for the country, but the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan has survived many an uncertain time in its 25-year history.”
He continued: “Despite the significant progress we have made over these 25 years, many people, particularly children, continue to be at risk of being killed or disabled by landmines and explosive remnants of war. The problem impacts upon the country’s security, environment and development. However, Afghanistan’s mine and ERW problem is solvable. As the largest and longest-running mine action programme in the world, we are capable of bringing Afghanistan to an end state where it is free from the threat of landmines and ERW. We urge the donor community to maintain their support for mine action to ensure that Afghanistan is mine-free by 2023.”
Today, the United Nations joins the people of Afghanistan in celebrating the progress already made in saving lives and reducing the threat of mines and ERW.
For more information, contact:
Bríd Sheehan, UNMAS Junior Programme Officer, Bridsh@unops.org
Noorullah Elham, MACCA Sr. Public Information Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org g.af , +93 70 2353 298