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Afghanistan: UN-assisted mine clearance enables 1,000 families to return home

Afghanistan: UN-assisted mine clearance enables 1,000 families to return home

Some 1,000 Afghan families can now return to their homes on a hilltop in downtown Kabul and live in a more secure environment thanks to the efforts of the United Nations-supported Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA).

During a handover ceremony today, MAPA released 70,000 square meters of cleared residential area to 1,000 families on Kabul’s “TV Hill” – where a total of 103 anti-personnel mines and nearly 2,600 unexploded ordnance have been destroyed since December 2006.

Following the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, some 500,000 square meters of land were found contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance on the TV Hill area. According to media reports, almost 1,000 people were killed or injured by such weapons in that area in 1998. Today more than 440,000 square meters have been cleared and nearly 2,000 anti-personnel mines and almost 7,400 unexploded ordnance destroyed.

“Thanks to the work of manual clearance teams almost 7,000 families have already retuned to the Hill and rebuilt their houses. TV Hill is now one of the most populated areas in the centre of the city,” the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA), which coordinates MAPA’s activities in areas such as minefield clearance, mine risk education and support for mine victims, said in a press release.

Afghanistan became a State party to the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention in March 2003 and is working towards clearing all minefields by 2013.

Also in Kabul today, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) inaugurated the AliceGhan project, which will provide housing and support for livelihoods to 1,400 Afghan returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Qarabagh District.

Those selected to participate in the project, which enjoys $7.3 million in funding from the Australian Government, will receive housing construction materials to build their own earthquake-resistant houses, as well as vocational training.

The name “AliceGhan” is derived from the combination of Alice Springs – a town in Australia which has strong links with Afghan migrants to Australia – and Afghanistan, symbolising the partnership and commitment between the two countries.

The project is implemented by UNDP in close partnership with several Afghan ministries, and with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UNHABITAT).