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Clearing Afghanistan’s landmines one careful step a time – Times of India


NAD-E-ALI: Weeks after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, households who fled the preventing in one southern village returned dwelling to seek out one thing unusual: the cricket floor had been circled in rocks painted crimson and white.
White, it turned out, meant it was secure for kids to play. But crimson signalled buried landmines and different ordnance — the explosive remnants of conflict which have killed or maimed tens of hundreds of Afghans over the previous 4 a long time.
The village of Nad-e-Ali in Helmand province turned a entrance line within the closing days of the conflict between the Taliban and Western-backed authorities forces in Kabul.
It was besieged for 2 months till the Islamists took management of the nation in mid-August.
When its residents returned in September they discovered the village faculty riddled with gunfire, its roof blackened by smoke, and the kids’s swings diminished to simply a steel body.
They additionally discovered that the realm had been “totally mined” within the preventing, in keeping with Juma Khan, the native coordinator for the HALO Trust, the principle mine-clearing NGO working in Afghanistan.
Newly laid mines and different booby traps had been buried beneath doorways of buildings and beside home windows.
“The rooms inside had mines and there were mines on the main street,” Khan informed AFP throughout a go to to Nad-e-Ali this month.
About 41,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded by landmines and unexploded ordnance since 1988, in keeping with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).
More than two-thirds of the victims had been kids, many of whom noticed the lethal units whereas taking part in and picked them up.
The HALO (Hazardous Area Life-Support Organization) Trust was based in 1988 particularly to deal with ordnance left behind through the Soviet occupation of the nation.
The nation was so badly contaminated, nevertheless, that the clearance work by no means stopped — even after a world treaty banning the use of landmines was signed in 1997, with Afghanistan ratifying the conference in 2002.
More than 30 years later, within the battles main as much as the Taliban’s return to energy, mines and improvised explosive units had been once more laid and left behind — this time by each the Islamists and their now ousted adversaries.
HALO — one of the favorite charities of Princess Diana — struck an settlement with the brand new Taliban authorities in September to have its greater than 2,500 Afghan workers return to work.
In Nad-e-Ali, Taliban fighters at the moment are guiding HALO’s deminers to seek out the lethal traps they themselves arrange.
Because they stay within the village and don’t wish to be blamed for civilian deaths, Taliban fighters “used to take them out with their own hands, but we stopped them to avoid any further detonations”, mentioned Khan.
But whilst demining efforts persist, explosions have already brought about casualties amongst villagers.
Two months in the past the spouse of a village trainer misplaced each her legs when an explosive system detonated the second she opened the door of her home.
“This incident was very painful. I saw it happen with my own eyes,” mentioned the trainer, Bismillah.
“I saw my children screaming and crying… I’m alone and the stress is too much, too much.”
Since then, the village and its faculty have been labeled as a “high priority” demining zone.
It was HALO that arrange the crimson and white rocks to mark out secure corridors for his or her 10 groups of eight deminers as they rigorously examine the bottom utilizing steel detectors.
“When it detects metal, battery or anything it rings an alarm. Then we mark the area, and start to dig very carefully,” mentioned supervisor Bahramudin Ahmadi.
“As soon as we have a visual of the mine we inform the demining team and we inform the local security, as they have to give the permission to clear the zone and after that we detonate it.”
Over the previous three months, 102 explosive units have been defused within the area, together with 25 within the village itself — however that’s believed to be simply a fraction of what stays buried within the floor and hidden inside some homes.
For HALO, it’s a race in opposition to time in put up-conflict Afghanistan to “decontaminate” one of probably the most closely mined nations on this planet.
The precedence is to guard kids. In Nad-e-Ali, HALO employees had been blunt concerning the risks.
“Please understand, if you lose a leg you know how much it will cost your parents, and if you die how much sorrow,” Nazifullah, a HALO programme supervisor, informed a group of kids sitting cross-legged on the bottom.
“What do you do if you see this?” he asks them, pointing at a image of a landmine.
“I will immediately tell my family, my brother or my imam at the mosque,” mentioned eight-12 months-outdated Nazia.
“I am afraid, but I know that when I see white rocks we can play and when it’s red we can’t play.”




https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/clearing-afghanistans-landmines-one-careful-step-a-time/articleshow/87770345.cms

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