Mines kill and maim up to 100 each month
KABUL: Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) are killing at least 100 people per month in Afghanistan, UK-based demining agency, the Halo Trust, has said.
"Afghanistan is one of the world's most mined countries with around 716 million sq metres still contaminated with mines and unexploded pieces of ordnance. Around 25 percent of the country's population is directly or indirectly affected by landmines," said Farid Homayoon, Country Director of the Halo Trust in Afghanistan.
Millions of mines were laid by the Soviets during their 1979-1989 invasion of Afghanistan and during the civil wars between different factions fighting for power following the collapse of the pro-Soviet communist regime in Kabul.
"The number of mine victims ranges from 70 to 100 each month, down from an estimated 150 to 300 per month in 2002 but still far too high," Homayoon said at a ceremony to mark United Nations Mine Action Awareness Day on Monday in Kabul.
Since the start of Afghanistan's demining programme in 1990 more than 320,000 anti-personal mines, 20,000 anti-tank mines and over 78,000 stockpiled mines have been destroyed, according to Halo Trust officials.
The demining process is providing employment across the country. "Around 10,000 Afghans are working to destroy the devices across the country and we hope that the country would be cleared of mines by 2013," Homayoon predicted.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan underlined the seriousness of the global threat from land mines in a statement on Monday. "A single landmine, or even the fear of its presence, can hold an entire community hostage."
Homayoon called on the Afghan government to honour its commitments under the Ottawa Convention to destroy all mines in the ground as well as stockpiles by 2007.
"This means that Afghanistan, which has been a member [signatory to the Ottawa Convention] for three years, has only one year to meet the convention's requirements. Therefore we need to work very hard," said Mohammad Shohab Hakimi, Chairman of the Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines - a local NGO.
Hakimi also urged the government to develop a programme to assist the thousands of people disabled by mines.
With no official statistics, authorities believe that 1.5 million people have either been killed or maimed in mine explosions over the past 25 years of war and civil strife.
Von: 06.04.06 http://www.onlinenews.com.pk