With a surface area of 652,090 square kilometers, the Islamic State of Afghanistan straddles the
old commerce routes of Central Asia. A landlocked mountainous country with high plains in the
norht and southwest, Afghanistan is bordered by Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and China.. It estimated that more than 21 million people live in Afghanistan, with
about 2 million living in Kabul, the largest city and the capital. The majority of Afghanis speak
Pashto, Persian, and Uzbek, which reflects the country's historically close contact with its
neighbours. Afghanistan became a member of the United Nations on 19 November 1946.
A history of civil war and the ambitions of regional powers are responsible for Afghanistan's mine problem. Afghanistan fell victim to superpower rivalry and regional instability in the 1970s. Following a devastating drought, the monarchy was overthrown in 1973 and Afghanistan drifted leftwards. After several bloody internal power struggles, the Soviet Union intervened decisively on Christmas 1979. From then until a ceasefire was declared in 1988, Russian-backed government forces held the urban centers against mujahideen rebel assaults.
In 1989 the last Russian forces withdrew, the government soon collapsed and civil war resumed.
During the fighting an estimated 50% of Afghan villages were destroyed and an estimated 25% of paved roads ruined. Crop harvests were seriously affected. Afghanistan is now rated by UNDP as 171 out of 173 countries in terms of poverty and development.
Mines and unexploded ordnance are located in almost every conceivable type of terrain in Afghanistan. Mines were most usually deployed along unused footpaths, tracks and roads; on the verges of tracks and roadways; in vehicle turn-around points; near culverts and bridge abutments; along damaged building walls; in the doorways and rooms of deserted houses; in and around wells and access points; around military posts; on or near destroyed vehicles; in areas where people might hide. A Mine Clearance Planning Agency Report of the National Survey of the Mine Situation found that agricultural land accounted for 20.2% of mined areas; irrigation systems 6%, roads 2.4%; residential areas 1.2%; and grazing land 75.6%. Mines pose a big danger to refugees returning home by passing through provinces bordering Pakistan and Iran. According to the survey, about 30% of mine victims in Afghanistan are children most of whom die due to lack of medical facilities.
In November 1996, Agence France Presse reported that up to one person an hour is killed by landmines and shells in battered Kabul. Still more worrying is that children are the main victims of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO)shells, rockets, bombs and bullets that have been fired but not yet detonatedwhich cause horrifying injuries if they fail to kill, the US-based aid agency Save the Children added here.
It is estimated that mines contaminate about 780 square kilometers of land in Afghanistan. Current NGO's in the field have the capacity to clear about 35-40 square kilometers per year.
United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs,
United Nations Cyberschoolbus Country at a Glance
Statistics and indicators are provided by the United Nations Statistics Division,