Afghanistan’s mine crisis: 70 fatalities spark calls for action

KABUL (SW) – Since the beginning of the year, at least 111 incidents involving explosions of leftover mines from wars have resulted in 70 fatalities and nearly 180 injuries.

Nooruddin Rustamkhil, head of Mine Clearance Coordination in the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), highlights Afghanistan’s struggle with limited budgets and workforce in mine clearance efforts. He says, “There are still 12 square kilometers of contaminated areas requiring clearance, but due to budget constraints, much of the workforce remains idle at home.”

Rustamkhail adds that out of 15,000 mine clearance workers in Afghanistan, only about 3,000 are currently employed, leaving the rest unemployed due to insufficient funding.

The Afghan Mine Clearance Institute warns of contamination across 1,200 square kilometers of Afghan soil with leftover mines, affecting the lives of three million directly and 3.8 million indirectly due to uncleaned mines.

Shahab Hakimi, head of the institute, emphasizes the dire consequences, saying, “266 out of 401 districts are mine-affected, with nearly three million people living within one kilometer of minefields. Each month, an average of 70 casualties, mostly children, are reported due to mine explosions.”

Mine clearance authorities and institutes express concern over inadequate funding for clearing suspicious areas, as evidenced by a recent incident in Logar where four children were killed and one injured in a landmine explosion.

Ghulam Rasul, a resident of Logar province and relative of the affected children, recounts, “The explosion occurred while these children were playing. Two girls and two boys lost their lives, and one child was injured.”

Abdul Razaq, a resident of Sayed Karam district in Paktia province, who lost a hand and an eye in a mine explosion, describes the ongoing hardships, saying, “The mine was buried underground. When it exploded, my hand was severed, and my other hand lost two finger. My head still bears scars. There are 10 people in our family, and our living conditions are dire.”

According to the Afghan Mine Clearance Institute, 4,233 villages in Afghanistan, covering more than 1,200 square kilometers, are contaminated with leftover mines from wars, posing significant risks to civilians.