Nearly forty years of conflict have left Afghanistan with a deadly legacy of landmines and other explosives. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured by landmines and the fighting continues to threaten livelihoods, forcing millions of Afghans to flee their homes.
Around 80 per cent of the population lives in rural communities, dependent on agriculture and livestock. When land is known to be mined, returning families like Fakhrudin’s are threatened with poverty because they can’t grow enough food or graze their animals safely. The situation was even worse for Fakhrudin because, soon after he returned, he was severely injured by a landmine. He couldn’t work for a year and was forced to borrow money and food from his neighbours to support his family.
Fakrudin, Sayelau Village
Over the past 30 years, HALO and the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan have made safe almost 80 per cent of the country’s recorded minefields and battlefields. In West Kabul, we spearheaded one of the biggest urban clearance operations since WWII, allowing a city decimated by war to rebuild. In Herat Province alone, we cleared over 600 minefields, including land around the 15th Century Minarets of the Husain Baiqara Madrasa. Across rural districts we have made land safe so farmers can grow crops and graze cattle.
HALO’s programme in Afghanistan is completely Afghan-led, with an ethnically diverse workforce of over 2,600 staff, recruited directly from towns and villages affected by landmines. For many, it is the only steady employment they have known. When combatants lay down their weapons, we can provide legitimate job opportunities, promoting peace and ensuring families can put food on the table.
But we still have work to do—it is estimated that land equivalent in size to Chicago remains to be cleared so families can return and rebuild their lives. We are committed to making Afghanistan safe for all its people, working across both government and non-government controlled areas to achieve this goal. In the meantime, we continue to work with the Development and Ability Organisation to support landmine victims.