The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) comprises 46 humanitarian and commercial organizations that employ over 9,000 Afghan citizens, making it one of the largest in the world. In 2002, the Government of Afghanistan entrusted interim responsibility for mine action to UNMAS and its subsidiary body – the UN Mine Action Centre of Afghanistan (MACA). In 2008, the Government assigned the Directorate for Mine Action Coordination (DMAC) under the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) to work collaboratively with the MACA and UNMAS to address the problems of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) and assist the Government in meeting its obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty (APMBT).
MAPA has achieved a great deal during its 26 years: 24,037 hazardous areas cleared/cancelled; 2,186 square kilometres of land released; 18,058,220 items of unexploded ordnance destroyed; 1,225,414 anti-personnel mines cleared; 59,887 anti-tank mines safely removed and disposed of; and 1,211 abandoned improvised explosive devices destroyed. As a result, the number of recorded civilian casualties from conventional mines and ERW has dropped from an average of 16 a day in 1998 to less than one a day in 2015.
During 2012 and 2013, UNMAS assisted the Afghan Government in successfully requesting a ten-year extension to its original 2013 deadline for clearing anti-personnel mine contamination under the APMBT. As part of this request, a detailed work plan to achieve mine-free status by 2023 was developed, in which all recorded mine and ERW contamination was divided into 308 projects. While the clearance target for the first project year (2013/14) was achieved, funding shortfalls in 2014/15 and 2015/16 mean the MAPA has now fallen behind schedule.
Despite this setback, the MAPA continues to make great achievements. Following advocacy efforts by UNMAS and partners, the largest ever ERW clearance operation in the world is currently responding to the abandoned training ranges and bases left by international military forces over recent years. Most recently, in response to the use of explosive weapons in Kunduz city between 28 September and 13 October 2015, UNMAS was able to coordinate the near-immediate deployment of its mine action partners to the city to conduct emergency survey and clearance operations, and provide mine risk education. Hundreds of items of unexploded ordnance have subsequently been destroyed.
While 77% of the area contaminated by recorded minefields and battlefields has been cleared, the remaining 23% still qualifies Afghanistan as one of the countries most affected by landmines and ERW in the world. In total, 1,590 communities remain affected in 258 districts across the country. Some 4,375 hazards remain, impeding national development by delaying the delivery of new highway and road networks, airports, mines, transmission lines and settlements.
In addition to the landmines and ERW planned for clearance in the ten-year Extension Request Work Plan, new challenges continue to emerge for the programme. While the training ranges left by international forces are now being cleared, the continuation of armed conflict is inevitably creating new ERW contamination. Pressure-plate IED contamination, which now causes significantly more civilian casualties than conventional mines and other ERW, is of particular concern.
Sustained financing is critical for MAPA to declare Afghanistan mine-free by 2023 in line with its obligations under the APMBT. Achieving this goal would be historic for Afghanistan and the world, given the scope of the problem there. If funds are not secured, Afghanistan will not be able to fulfill its international obligations under the APMBT.
To reach the clearance target for the 2015/16, the programme needs an additional USD 28 million.
UNMAS thanks the following donors for their generous support to MAPA through the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action this project year (2015/16): Canada, Finland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and USA.
Updated: February 2016