More than 38,000 anti-personnel mines have been cleared in the past six months across Afghanistan – one of the most heavily mined countries in the world – representing 10 percent of the total number cleared in the past 18 years, a senior United Nations official said Monday.

Where more than four million Afghans live in mine-contaminated areas, the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan has cleared 38,297 anti-personnel mines, 419 anti-tank mines and 957,362 explosive remnants of war so far this year, from 65,361,363 square metres of land.

As a party to the global anti-landmine treaty, known as the Ottawa Convention, Afghanistan has committed itself to clear all of its landmines by 2013.

In addition, the Afghanistan Compact has set a target of reducing all contaminated land from landmines and explosive remnants of war by 70 per cent by 2011.

Launched in January 2006, the Compact is the framework for partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community to help bolster the war-torn country’s security, economic development and counter-narcotics efforts.

Much of the recent success is due to community based de-mining and mine risk education programs. Community based de-mining has been particularly useful in areas where there is conflict and regular de-miners cannot operate.  By training local people to carry out de-mining activities, the mine-clearing process can continue and locals can benefit from the employment such activities offer.

“With these new approaches, Afghanistan will be able to meet the Ottawa Convention and Afghanistan Compact benchmarks,” said Haider Reza, Program Director of the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan.

Over 760,000 men, women and children received mine risk education training in the first six months of this year. Together, mine clearance and mine risk education have helped decrease the number of mine victims to a record low of 24 people across the nation in June 2008.

“The United Nations, together with the Government of Afghanistan is making every effort to make Afghanistan a safe country, free of landmines,” Mr. Reza said.

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