This Man Is Fighting A Huge Battle Against Afghanistan's Deadly Landmines

Photo: Kabul: A City At Work

We’ve all seen photos of people who’ve died or had their legs blown off because they accidentally stepped on a buried, long-forgotten landmine or other Improvised Explosive Device (IED).Afghans have been living with this reality for decades, and the problem affects locals and international soldiers alike, despite international efforts

Kabul: A City At Work, a multimedia project on life in Afghanistan, interviewed Mirwais, a “deminer” who has worked tirelessly to rid his district of it’s hidden explosive devices for 15 years. His story illustrates the wider problem of the continuing presence of mines and other remnants of war in one of the most mined countries in the world.

About 33,700 anti-personnel and 1,000 anti-tank mines were found in 2010.

(Source: RAWA)

Anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million are still at large, according to different estimates.

(Source: RAWA)

As of December 2011, there were 6,048 hazardous areas remaining in Afghanistan.

(Source: MACCA)

Decades of wars and civil unrest involving the Soviets, the Taliban and al-Qaeda have left the mines.

The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) was set up 20 years ago and was the first to include advocacy, demining, education, and support for survivors.

MAPA encompasses more than 40 national & international organisations employing over 14,400 people.

Mirwais is one such deminer. He and his crew work 23 days a month without a break.

Since 2008, his team has blown up 6,000 mines in one district alone.

When he detects a possible mine, Mirwais first digs shallow holes around it to uncover it.

If nothing shows up on the surface, they dig deeper.

When they finally find the mine, they blow it up in a controlled explosion.

Most funding for demining activities and public awareness programs comes from abroad.

While Afghan President Karzai has ratified or agreed to the need for the International Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty, he has yet to sign it.

Minefields are also causing loss of land that can be used for farming, building houses, or other productive activities, worsening poverty.

The Ottawa Mine Ban Convention demands the total clearance of all minefields by 2013.

(Source: MACCA)

But by December 2011, MAPA had cleared only about half of the number of mines and dangerous areas. Mirwais says the continuing war is making it harder to achieve the 2013 goal.

It's a race against time. In the third quarter of 2011, 67 Afghans were injured or killed by landmines and other IEDs. About 76 per cent were children.

(Source: MACCA)

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