Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs
July 30, 2002
U.S. Humanitarian Demining Assistance to Afghanistan
The Landmine Problem
Afghanistan remains severely affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Prior to the current conflict, the UN's Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA) identified 723 sq. km of land as being mine-affected, and has assessed 344 sq. km of the land as being a high priority for clearance. While the UN estimates that there are five to seven million landmines in the country, some NGOs claim that, based on their clearance experiences in heavily-mined areas, official estimates are too high. The most heavily-mined areas are the provinces bordering Iran and Pakistan. Most of the mines are located in agricultural fields, irrigation canals, and grazing areas. Mines are also found on roads and in residential and commercial areas. Security belts of landmines also exist around major cities, airports, government installations, and power stations. An equally significant problem is the existence of large amounts of UXO, which, even prior to the on-going conflict, inflicted extensive injuries and destruction.
According to MAPA, there are some 200,000 survivors of mine and UXO accidents and, prior to the initiation of recent military activities, the death and injury rate ran at 150-300 per month. MAPA suggests that "mine and UXO injuries have escalated due to the new contamination and also due to increased population movement, often in unfamiliar areas, as people shift to avoid areas of fighting or return to newly secure locations."
United States Assistance
Prior to Fiscal Year (FY) 2002, the United States provided its assistance for humanitarian demining activities through the UNís Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA). UN oversight of the program in Afghanistan transferred from UNOCHA to the UN Mine Action Service earlier this year.
In FY 00, the U.S. provided $3 million to continue funding of the mine detection dog program, manual and mechanical clearance operations, mine survey teams, and the purchase of additional and replacement demining equipment. In FY 01, the U.S. provided $2.8 million and divided the contribution between UNOCHA ($800,000 for demining equipment, $900,000 for mine clearance) and the Hazardous Area Life-support Organization (HALO) Trust ($1.1 million for mine clearance).
Since FY 93, the United States has provided over $38.4 million in humanitarian demining assistance for Afghanistan. Through the years, U.S. assistance has paid for mine awareness programs, minefield surveys and markings, training of deminers, and mine clearance, equipment, and, as far back as 1989, mine detection dogs.
MAPA oversees one of the most effective demining programs in the world. Mine awareness briefings to more than seven million people have contributed significantly to lowering the landmine casualty rate by an estimated 50%. By the end of 2001, Afghani deminers had cleared over 224 sq. km of high priority, mine-infested land and 321 sq. km of former battlefield areas, while destroying approximately 210,000 landmines and 985,000 pieces of UXO.
As a result of these efforts, more than 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons have been able to return to their homes. In addition, the cleared land has enabled MAPA to provide employment opportunities to over 9,200 farmers and industrial workers, increased agricultural outputs (valued at $14.2 million U.S. dollars), and livestock production (valued at $43.4 million U.S. dollars).
In spite of the current military situation, MAPA reports that clearance operations have returned to 100% of previous capacity, although on-going security constraints limit operations in some areas. MAPA is expanding its mine clearance capacities. In 2001 there were a total of 113 clearance teams; MAPA plans to increase this number to 201 by the end of 2002.
In the first quarter of calendar year 2002, mine clearance organizations coordinated by MAPA cleared 23,825,611 square meters of high priority mine and UXO contaminated area. In addition, another 32,091,000 square meters have been returned to various communities for productive use. This turnover is due to successful survey work conducted under MAPA auspices. In the same period, MAPA reports that 751 anti-tank, 16,196 anti-personnel, and 251,169 unexploded ordnance devices have been cleared. MAPA has reported that the clearance of cluster munitions is being achieved at a rate faster than anticipated. All known cluster munition strike sites have been surveyed where access is possible and are in the process of being cleared.
With respect to area cleared, MAPA estimates that an additional 75,000,000 square meters will be cleared by the end of 2002. A further 60,000,000 square meters will be turned over as a result of survey work.
Fiscal Year 2002 U.S. Assistance to Mine Action in Afghanistan
In Fiscal Year 2002, the Department of State has provided $7.03 million to support a number of mine action activities. The FY 02 support package included:
FY 02 Assistance by Other U.S. Agencies