By Ahmad Quraishi
At the orthopedic centre of Wazir Hospital, nine-year-old Wazir Hammond rests against a wall of sandbags that protect the hospital against rockets, shelling and bombs. He requires a prosthesis refitting every six months. More than a hundred people, most of them civilians, are killed and maimed every month by land mines in Afghanistan. (Photo: Robert Semeniuk, Kabul, 1996)
More than 80,000 people in the Afghanistan’s western provinces are vulnerable to landmines, a demining coordination centre announced on Wednesday.
The Mine Action Coordination Centre for Afghanistan (MACA) said Wednesday that the residents of 140 villages in the provinces of Farah, Herat, Ghor and Badghis were still at risk, despite a recent reduction in mine-related casualties.
Mohammad Muqeem Noori, MACA’s regional head, told Pajhwok Afghan News that much of this reduction over the past five years could be attributed to the work of de-miners as well as increasing public awareness.
In 2006, up to 141 people were killed or injured by landmines in the region. That number has declined each year since, to 16 in 2010, he said. He also said that over the past few decades more than 156 million square metres of land had been cleared of landmines in the provinces, and that more than 30,000 anti-personnel bombs, 1,900 anti-tank mines, and 1.5 million unexploded bombs had been defused.
The head of the Farah provincial council, Abdul Basir Khairkhwa, said that the demining teams are working slowly, and that landmines remain in the Bala Boluck, Anar Dar, and Gulistan districts of the province. He said that he had asked demining officials several times to expand their activities in the province, so far to no avail.
But Noori said that there was no more money to expand de-mining operations. There are 280 de-miners working in 28 teams to clear mines from the region, he said. He said a higher budget would allow them to remove 70 percent of the mines from the affected areas in the next three years.