To raise awareness about landmines and progress toward their eradication, Afghans and their international partners marked Mine Awareness Day at a United Nations-backed event in which speeches were delivered and demonstrations given on demining procedures.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a video message broadcast during the event, said the world body is playing a vital role in freeing the world from the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war, meeting the needs of victims and survivors and ensuring their human rights.
He mentioned that, last year alone, around the world, UN personnel destroyed more than 400,000 landmines and explosive remnants of war, along with more than 2,000 tonnes of obsolete ammunition. The UN, he indicated, also cleared and verified more than 1,500 kilometres of roadways, provided mine risk education to millions of people and trained thousands of military and police officers to handle and safely dispose of explosive hazards.
The UN Chief urged the member states to stay committed to the cause of mine action through financial contributions and political support, which he said was particularly crucial this year as the General Assembly debates assistance in mine action.
At today’s ceremony, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani not only thanked deminers for their efforts in making areas of the country free from mines, but also said he has asked the Ministry of Education to name schools after those who have lost their lives in demining activities.
In a speech at the event, the General Director of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), Dr. Mohammad Daim Kakar, said that while 80 per cent of Afghanistan has been cleared from mines and remnants of war, some 4,000 sites remain contaminated.
Calling Afghanistan’s mine action programme a national success, the Programme Manager of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), Jeff McMurdo, said the programme could become a model for other countries, as deminers in other parts of the world could replicate the lessons learned in more than two decades of effort here.
The International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action is annually marked on 4 April, following a UN General Assembly proclamation made on 8 December 2005.
The theme for this year’s day, “More than Mines,” is designed to raise awareness about the reality faced by civilians, humanitarians, peacekeepers and development agencies in war-zones and countries recovering from conflict. When explosive hazards block the way, food is not delivered; refugees and internally displaced people cannot safely return home; children cannot go to school; and development and peacebuilding efforts are hindered.