Afghanistan

Herat district cleared of mines, remnants of war with UN support

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HERAT - The UN-backed demining work in Afghanistan has passed another milestone by declaring the Adraskan district of western Herat province free of all types of mines and explosive remnants of war.

“Only four out of 15 districts in Herat were remaining to be cleared,” said Sharif Shah, a UN Mine Action Centre of Afghanistan (UNMACA) official, speaking in Adraskan to announce the news.

“Cleaning efforts were carried out with the support of local community residents facing the dangers and hazards posed by these remnants of war,” said Mr. Shah.

Mine clearance operations have been central to the work of the UN deminers and their national and international partners, with their key objective being to support the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) to declare Afghanistan free of mines and other remnants of war by 2023.

Since the start of MAPA activities in Herat, demining teams have reported clearing more than 682,557 square metres of land over an area of 79 kilometres.

Speaking at the event to announce Adraskan mine-free, District Governor Lal Mohammad Omarzai called the clearance operations a key step for the future district development.

“Now we have the opportunity to use the clean lands for many activities, such as building clinics, schools, and roads,” he said, noting that effective liaison between international demining organizations, government and local communities was a key factor in making Adraskan mine-free.

Another factor, he said, was the effective education programme carried out by UNMACA’s office in Herat, reaching more than 3,000 people in Adraskan.

More than three decades of war have left Afghanistan contaminated with mines and explosive remnants of war. Since the beginning of mine action activities in 1989, an area of 2,046.5 square kilometres have been cleared. Currently, 589 square kilometres of Afghanistan land remain contaminated.

UNMACA -- a programme of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) -- works to support the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA), which consists of 46 humanitarian and commercial organizations that employ more than 9,000 Afghan citizens, making it one of the largest in the world.

UNMACA is part of the UN family in Afghanistan. More than 20 different UN entities are present in the country, working to support the Afghan government’s priorities through a broad spectrum of development and humanitarian activities, including through support for development planning, resource mobilization, and coordination of international donors and organizations.