The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA), the world’s largest mine action programme, was established in 1989 to make Afghanistan safe from the threat of mines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, the Government of Afghanistan entrusted interim responsibility for mine action to the United Nations. From 2002 to 2008 UNMAS fulfilled this responsibility through the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) project. In 2008, the UNMACA was rebranded as the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA); a project fully equipped with Afghan staff and driven by Afghan leadership.
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 MACCA and UNMAS. In 2012, UNMAS and the MACCA begun to transfer coordination and operational responsibilities to the DMAC, and in 2016 the MACCA was dissolved, with the operational capacity within UNMAS transitioning to fully support and advise the DMAC. This gradual transfer toward full national ownership will continue into 2018.
MAPA has achieved a great deal during its 27 years: 24,798 hazardous areas cleared/cancelled; 3,138 square kilometres of land released (incl. firing ranges); 1,817,466 items of ERW; 715,268 anti-personnel mines cleared; 29,473 anti-tank mines safely removed and disposed of; and 752 abandoned pressure-plate improvised explosive devices destroyed.
As a result, Afghanistan has seen a 65% reduction in the civilian casualties caused by mines and ERW since 2001. This is not only due to clearance activities, but also due in part to the widespread risk education activities, which have seen over 23 million people educated on the dangers of mines and ERW.
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 1392 was achieved, funding shortfalls since then have meant that clearance targets have 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 almost 78% of the known area contaminated by recorded minefields and battlefields has been cleared, the remaining 22% still qualifies Afghanistan as one of the countries most affected by landmines and ERW in the world. In total, 1,530 communities remain affected across the country. Approximately, 3,960 identified hazards remain, impeding national development by delaying the delivery of new highway/road networks, airports, mineral mines, transmission lines and development of returnee settlement areas.
In addition to the landmines and ERW planned for clearance, new challenges continue to emerge for the programme. The ongoing armed conflict creates additional, deadly ERW contamination, while the increased usage in pressure-plate IED during engagement is causes significantly high civilian casualties. These issues are exacerbated by the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran return (predominarly involuntarly) to Afghanistan, with very little knowledge of the contamination and fighting, and no previous risk education.
The refugees and IDPs seeking to return, as well as children and adolescents, require life-saving mine and ERW risk education to increase their personal safety and modify their behaviour in suspected contaminated areas. In addition, other vulnerable groups require regular refresher education and training. Approximately 147 people per month still lose their lives or limbs as result of mines, ERW or pressure plate IED (PPIED) incidents. Furthermore, due to an increase in victim-activated IEDs over the past 3 years, the number of casualties recorded is increasing.
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. MAPA is seeking approximately US $117.6 million for 1396 (2017), of which US $97.7 million is for clearance towards the APMBT, to implement full scaled activities.
UNMAS thanks the following donors for their generous support to MAPA through the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action this project year (1395): Australia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Updated: February 2017