The United Nations-supported mine action centre in Afghanistan destroyed nearly 112,000 different types of explosives in the first two months of this year and could do much more with additional funding, one of its top officials said today ahead of next week’s International Mine Action Day.
“It only takes $277 to clear each mine, so in reality it is not very expensive,” Haider Reza, Programme Director of the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA), told reporters in Kabul.
He added an area of around 600 square kilometres still needs to be cleared of mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). At a rate of 120 kilometres annually, that would take up to six years at a cost of $500,000.
In January and February this year, the centre cleared 1,727 anti-personnel mines, 135 anti-tank mines and more than 110,000 different types of ERW in 19 communities. In addition, 50,000 people, including women and children, received mine risk education.
The majority of the mines are from the former Soviet Union, but some originated in Italy, Iran and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Reza said he also noted that incidents involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been on the rise, especially in the south and in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where the Taliban has strong ties.
In the first months of the year, 74 people were either killed or injured by explosions.
Mr. Reza said his office’s priority for this year is to expand its community-based mine clearance operations throughout the country.
“By training the youth from the community, by providing a small salary and by hiring vehicles from the community, we are actually injecting cash into the community and that’s of course a kind of encouragement and incentive so the youth will not turn to the opposition.”
MACCA also oversees a mine risk education programme and a traditional mine action programme that it has carried out for the last 20 years.
The press conference comes ahead of International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, which is marked around the world on 4 April.