Afghanistan is, without a doubt, still one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Estimates suggest that around ten people every day are being injured or killed by landmines or unexploded ordinance (UXO).
Founded in 1990, the Organisation for Mine Clearance & Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR) is one of the most experienced mine clearance NGOs operating in Afghanistan.
OMAR conducts mine clearance, explosive ordinance disposal and mine awareness in various parts of the country with bases in Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Herat. Employing 645 Afghan staff, the organisation has cleared millions of square metres of land using a combination of manual clearance teams, battle area clearance teams and mechanical support.
However, OMAR's staff has not encountered some of the latest ordinance used by Western forces. They need new, specialist EOD techniques to enable them to respond effectively and as safely as possible.
MAG recently completed an EOD course, for new OMAR EOD teams. The syllabus covered general UXO hazards, UXO recognition features, movement of UXO, explosive and demolition range safety, and practical demolition of live UXO. All students passed the course, and two new OMAR teams are able to effectively respond to UXO contamination in Afghanistan.
During the training, the MAG STA and OMAR discussed ways in which MAG could further assist OMAR. As a result MAG is planning to provide further technical advice and build the capacity of OMAR's mechanical mine clearance operations.
OMAR conducts mine and UXO clearance and mine awareness in various parts of the country, with its head office recently relocated to Kabul (from Peshawar) and offices in Jalalabad, Kandahar, and Herat. OMAR has 645 employees of whom 550 are involved in mine clearance and 95 in mine awareness education. It also runs some primary education, health care and rehabilitation projects with separate staff and budget. In the year 2000, OMAR operated with ten manual clearance teams, four battle area clearance teams, and three mechanical mine clearance teams and cleared more than 1.8 million square meters of mine contaminated area and about 3.5 million square meters former battle area contaminated by UXO. During these clearance operations 2,237 Anti Personel mines, 9 Anti Tank mines and 47,894 items of Unexploded Ordinance were destroyed.
The charity NO STRINGS uses puppets to convey a landmine safety message to children. Johnie MacGlade, one of the founders, explained that puppets are non-confrontational and therefore, children trust them more than they would an adult. By using an amusing story to illustrate what happens when a mine is picked up or disturbed, the audience remembers the message and hopefully it could save their life.
Fazel Karim Fazel, Executive Director OMAR Tel. Kabul (0521)814599 (0521)812084 Fax.
Mines kill and injure more children than adults as many are brightly coloured and are often mistaken for toys. The result can be death or the loss of hands, legs or both. This is exactly what the puppet project hopes to prevent by conveying a safety message within the story. The story will be both amusing and informative so that the children in the audience learn about the dangers of land mines whilst being entertained.
OMAR and NO STRINGS are working closely together on a tour of a new puppet production called CHUCHI the Carpet Boy.
The puppet, Chuchi, meets Fazel Karim Fazel Executive Director of OMAR.
Organisation for Mine Clearance & Afghan Rehabilitation
Our planet is contaminated by a deadly plague of landmines. In the last decade wars have killed over two million children, injured between four and five million, orphaned more than a million, made twelve million homeless, and left ten million severely traumatised. Many of these young victims have been the casualties of landmine explosions.
"..the toll they take on innocent civilians amounts to a crime against humankind". (Sadako Ogata - UNHCR)
A growing number of organisations around the world are calling for a global ban on the manufacture, sale and deployment of landmines.
The campaign calls for:
An international ban on the use, production, stockpiling, and sale, transfer or export of anti-personnel mines; and The establishment of an international fund, administered by the United Nations, to promote and finance mine victim assistance programs Landmine awareness, clearance and eradication programs worldwide; and Countries responsible for the production and dissemination of antipersonnel mines to contribute to the international fund.
Go to The International Campaign to Ban Landmines website to read more.