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Deminers tell their story

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Ian Bullpitt, Programme Manager, UN Mine Programme | 7 December 1997

When we sent out a message asking people in the field to participate, the reply we got from Ian Bullpitt, the Programme Manager of the UN Mine Programme for Aghanistan, was unequivocal: “Regarding taking questions, this is no problem whatsoever - I would be only to glad to assist.” Ian will be this project’s main contact in Afghanistan. He has been there for five years taking on technical and managerial jobs. Ian is 36 years old (born on 16 January 1961) and is originally from Australia. He has travelled widely through Afghanistan though the Mine Programme’s current base is in Islamabad, Pakistan. He will answer questions himself and also pass them on to Sohrab, Nafisa [read their letters below] and others as appropriate. Ian forwarded the pictures and letters of Sohrab and Nafisa as well as those of the mine awareness classes.



Letter from Sohrab

My name is Sohrab, son of Mohammad Kabir, a resident of the Mekroryan district of Kabul, Afghanistan. I am nine years old and am currently a student at the Afghan Refugees school in Islamabad, Pakistan.

In March 1993, we were living at Mekroryan No 3. The security situation in the city was not good. Heavy fighting was going on between the warring factions and living in the city then was difficult. People were fleeing to the safer parts of the city. However, due to financial problems we were not able to flee.

One evening in the winter of 1993, in the Holy month of Ramadan, my uncle and I went to bring drinking water from a nearby water pump. The weather was very cold. Everybody was preparing for "Iftar" (dinner). When I put the bucket under the water pump to draw water, I heard a loud explosion and became unconscious. Then, when I became conscious and opened my dusty eyes, I found myself in a bed with my parents weeping beside me. The doctors were also standing near me. When I asked them what had happened to me, they told me every thing is fine and assured me that I was alright. I tried to get up but I could not; my body was wrapped in a white cloth. I realized that I was injured. In the same explosion, my uncle had lost his left hand. He touched some unknown device (believed to be a mine) which exploded.

My parents took me to many doctors who always spoke secretively to my parents in my absence. Finally they took me to Pakistan where my health situation got worse. My legs became paralyzed. I could not walk and stayed in bed at home. Finally, I became disabled.

My parents bought me a wheelchair, which I use to go to school with. I feel very bad when people take my pictures. I always try to hide my legs so that no one knows about my disability.

Beside my two legs, my backbone is also paralyzed, and I feel pain in this part of my body. I cannot work, study, etc. The staff at our school told me that our classroom moved to the second floor of the building and they will not be able to help me in getting into my classroom with my wheelchair. I will now have to consider leaving the school.

Thank-you.

Sohrab


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Letter from Nafisa

My name is Nafisa, daughter of Gula Jan. I am a resident of Shamshapoor village in the Surkhrod district, Nangarhar province. I am 14 years old and have studied up to 3rd grade in Kacha Garay (refugee camp) School in Peshawar. In 1993, I left my school and returned to Afghanistan with my family as we had to repatriate. There was no school in our village in Afghanistan. I, like many other young women in our village, was deprived of education and was only helping my mother at home on a daily basis. Beside performing home duties, I also had to bring drinking water from the nearby canal everyday. As we were using this route on a frequent basis, we therefore did not think there were any landmines in this area. One day, I was walking towards the canal and had a water jar in my hand when suddenly an explosion occurred and I felt like something had blown up under my foot. I fell on the ground. I did not realize what had happened. Within seconds I was covered in dust and smoke and found out my leg was blown off in the explosion. I felt a stream of warm blood on my face and hands and started crying for help. This was the first unfortunate incident in my life which I can never forget. Family members and neighbours rushed towards me to pick me up. They took me to the hospital in Jalalabad where they provided first aid treatment and then shifted me to another hospital in Peshawar where I received complete treatment.

I now walk with an artificial leg and am deprived of many happinesses of life. At this age I should have enjoyed my life, helped my mother by taking part in house work, but can do nothing . Now I feel like a huge burden on my other family members. My dreams to grow up, become a housewife and raise a family are almost vanished. Like me, there are thousands of other men, women and children in Afghanistan who became, and are still becoming, victims of landmines. Our village consists of about 1000 people of whom 69 people are somehow maimed by landmines.

Thank-you.

Nafisa


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