Afghanistan: Landmine Fact Sheet

These facts was compiled with information from UN Demining Program (UNMAP)

Overview:

Over 530 square kilometers of Afghanistan have now been identified as contaminated by Mines and UXOs (unexploded ordinance). Some 149 square kilometers have been identified as priority one, or areas which have immediate impact on people's lives (residential areas, commercial areas, agricultural land, irrigation canals, roads and grazing areas). Afghanistan has 10 million land mines. Figure provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan.

The capital Kabul is the most heavily mined capital city in the World. The UN estimated in 1993 that 162 of Afghanistan's 356 districts were affected by mines;177 districts were mine free; and 17 were still unsurveyed. Minefields constituted 466 sq km; 118 sq km were designated as high priority for mine removal. In that report by the MCPA Report of the National Survey of the Mine Situation, five provinces out of 29 surveyed had the largest amount of total mines: Helmand 26%; Kandahar 10.4%; Paktia 9.6%; Logar 8.6%; Herat 7.25%. The survey found that agricultural land accounted for 20.2% of mined areas, irrigation systems 6%, roads 2.4%, residential areas 1.2%, grazing land 75.6%. The survey broke down figures for the most affected provinces. Helmand: five high priority minefields; Kandahar: 47 high priority minefields; Paktia: 118 high priority minefields; Logar: 53 high priority minefields; Herat: 86 high priority minefields.

Mine clearance teams in Afghanistan report finding literally dozens of types of landmines, mainly from the ex-USSR, but also from Belgium, Italy, US and the UK. The most infamous mine used during the Soviet Union's occupation period was the so-called 'butterfly' mine. Helicopter crews dropped untold numbers (figures range into the millions) of the small mines from the air. They were designed to flutter to the ground without exploding, and to thousands of children they resembled butterflys or toys. But one wing of the mine was filled with liquid explosive, designed to ignite and explode on contact, severing hands.

Deminers have found the Valmara 69 mine, made in Italy in Afghanistan. The Valmara 69 is a bounding mine. When stepped on it leaps 45 cm into the air, and shatters into more than 1000 metal splinters, causing casualties within a 25 meter radius. There was also widespread use of Anti-tank mines, which have the capacity to destroy vehicles of any size and kill and injure dozens of victims.

During the fighting an estimated 50% of Afghan villages were destroyed, and an estimated 25% of paved roads ruined. Crop harvests were seriously affected. Afghanistan is now rated by UNDP as 171 out of 173 countries in terms of poverty and development.

 


1996

Cleared a total of 80 square kilometers of high priority area;

Destroyed over 200,000 devices (mines and unexploded ordnance);

Surveyed a total of 110 square kilometers;

Provided mine awareness briefings to three million people;

Trained and employed over 3,100 employees.


Most of the high priority mined areas around the regional centres of Herat, Takhar and Jalalabad and other provinces and cities such as Badghis, Baghlan, Bamyan, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Nimroz, Oruzgan and Wardak have been cleared. Hundreds of thousands of refugees waiting in the neighboring countries to return to these areas, especially to Beghlan, Herat, Jalalabad, Kunar and Khost either have returned or at least do not see mines as the main obstacle to their return, as they did in the early 1990s.

Although the war in Afghanistan affected the whole country, the provinces bordering Iran and Pakistan (the western, southern and eastern parts) were the most heavily mined. Security belts were established around the major cities close to the Iranian and Pakistani borders, such as Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Khost. The same tactic was followed in strategic places outside the cities, such as airports, government installations and power stations.

 


Afghanistan, laden with an estimated 10 million mines, has been memorably described as resembling one big minefield. Grazing lands, waterways, schools, paths, villages and cities are infested with mainly Anti-personal mines. Mines are responsible for depopulating vast tracts of the countryside, affecting food supplies into the cities and crop harvests.

The mine infestation affects both rural and urban populations. Kabul is the third largest mined area in the country, mainly due to the Taliban winter offensive of 1994/95, when many neighborhoods were mined after residents fled to safe havens outside the capital. The extent of the problem became apparent after government forces restored order and residents returned unaware of the danger. In Apr. 95 ICRC recorded 1,500 mine casualties.

The Mine Clearance Programme (MCP) rushed 11 clearance teams into Kabul, in addition to seven survey teams and five dog teams. Halo Trust has four teams in Kabul. Demining in Kabul is slow because so much of the city is in ruins. Mined areas are full of metal fragments and shrapnel, rendering useless mine detectors. Mines have been found on rooftops and in underground passageways.

In 1995 Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) reported that in a survey of households in 4,990 villages,277 refugee families, and 1,432 resettled families, mines severely impacted on agricultural activities. "In the rural villages surveyed, the food production of 43% of the families interviewed was affected by landmines. Landmine contamination prevents the cultivation of additional land totalling 150% of the agricultural land currently under cultivation." Eighty percent of families cited the presence of mines on their land, and 16% cited mines affecting their irrigation channels. Among the village families, 40,039 animals were killed by mines.

The national infrastructure is seriously impacted by mines. UNOCHA estimated in mid-95 that 327 stretches of road still awaited clearance, a total of 14,731,114 sqm. The estimated cost of demining roads is .80 cents per sqm. Electrical pylons are mined. The country's largest dam, Kajakai, was out of operation for ten years because it was mined. Power pylons linking that dam to Kandahar, and the Sarobi dam to Kabul, are mined.

The repatriation of refugees back to Afghanistan is often contingent on landmines. In a 1995 VVAF field survey, 18% of refugee families in Pakistan said that mines were responsible for them leaving. Thirty-one percent reported mines preventing them from growing crops. Humanitarian organizations report mine incidents increasing after refugees have returned from exile. "During the mass return in 1992, casualty rates jumped to two or three times the rate recorded during the same period in the previous year," reports VVAF. "One study carried out during a six month period in Peshawar in 1992 indicated that 77% of mine victims were returnees."

Causalities:

Oct 98 - A bus carrying a family from a wedding was overthrown by a landmine in the Kandahar city. 41 people died and 30 others were injured when the bus overturned.

Dec 96 - According to one official report, 600 Afghans are believed to be killed or wounded by mines every month.

Nov 96 - According to statistics collected by Save the Children, of all mine and UXO-related injuries and deaths in Kabul in the past six months, 37% occured in October. Furthermore, children account for the majority of victims - in October alone , 78% (66 of 85) people injured and killed were children. The surveys conducted by Save the Children reveal that UXOs, commonly known as unexploded bombs, are particularly deadly for children - 94% of all victims of UXO explosions in October were children.

October 1996 - In Afghanistan, 2,000-4,000 people die every year as a result of mines an UXO, with a far greater number of amputations. (Source: UN/MAC)

The ICRC's "Evolution of mine warfare" tables show two peaks of mine casualties: one in 1992 and another in 1995. The first corresponds to a large influx of returning refugees, many of whom unknowingly entered mined areas in their home regions. The second peak represents an upsurge in fighting between the Kabul government and the Taliban movement. This involved the widespread use of mines in the city of Kabul itself, resulting in heavy casualties among both combatants and civilians. (Source: ICRC News)

1993 - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has compiled statistics of Afghan mine casualties from its hospitals in Pakistan. In a study of 5,189 registered mine injured patients, 29% had stepped on mines; 48% were hit by mine fragments; 5% were holding the mine; and another 18% were injured in other ways. Statistics confirm that recently returned refugees are at the highest risk from death or injury from mines.

Of 720 people admitted to an ICRC hospital in Peshawar in 1992, 66.1% had recently been repatriated and 36.8% of those had been back in Afghanistan less than three months. The study asked patients what they were doing when they were injured: 20% were working in fields or fetching water; 15% were traveling 13% were fighting; 8% were playing with a mine; 4% were demining.

Females were 7.3% of casualties; Males of 15 years or less were 19.8%; Males over 50 were 4.2%. The remainder were males between 16 and 50. ICRC estimated that 28.5% of all mine casualties lost one or both legs.


Locations

May '97 - Estimate of suspected mined areas: 3,600 sq km or 2,600 fields.

General Locations: Mines and unexploded ordnance are located in almost every conceivable type of terrain in Afghanistan. Major military and civilian positions were mined, including the cities of Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Khost. Mines pose a big danger to refugees returning home by passing through provinces bordering Pakistan and Iran. According to UNOCHA mines were most usually deployed along unused footpaths, tracks and roads; on the verges of tracks and roadways; in vehicle turn-around points; near culverts and bridge abutments; along damaged building walls; in the doorways and rooms of deserted houses; in and around wells and access points; around military posts; on or near destroyed vehicles; in areas where people might hide. "Minefields laid by the Soviets and the previous Afghan Government forces were generally recorded and catalogued according to military procedures," reported UNOCHA in 1994. "However the vast majority of mines laid by the mujahideen were not recorded or laid to any specific pattern. Moreover, the records lost much of their significance as the many areas were fought over, and won and lost by both sides during the war."

 


 

Existing mines:

Anti-Personal Mines: 8,000,000

Anti-Tank Mines: 2,000,000

Total 10,000,000

Cleared mines:

Anti-Personal Mines: 150,900

UXO Cleared: 515,153

Land Cleared: 240,053,533

Total: 666,053


*Recent News Reports On Landmine Clearance In Afghanistan*

*Links To Other Landmine Sites*