'Two-thirds of Afghanistan cleared of landmines' | world | Hindustan Times
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'Two-thirds of Afghanistan cleared of landmines'

world Updated: Jul 21, 2008 21:37 IST

Two-thirds of Afghanistan, one of the most mined countries in the world, has been cleared of landmines but millions of its people still live on mined land, the United Nations said on Monday.

More than 8,500 deminers have been working to clear the country of the explosives for the past 18 years, the director general of United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) told reporters.

"According to our figures, two-thirds of the problem of mines and unexploded ordnance have been cleared so it's only one-third that is left," said UNMACA chief Haider Reza.

More than four million people however still live on areas planted with mines during Afghanistan's nearly three decades of war, mainly the 1980s Soviet occupation.

Landmines had caused 371 injuries and deaths over the past six months. However the number of people falling victim to the explosives had dropped to a record low of 24 in June compared to 80 in February, Reza said.

"I cannot guarantee that it will not change again, God forbid, in the other direction but we are desperately trying to see if we can lower this even further," he said.

In the past six months, mine clearers had collected and destroyed more than 38,000 ati-personnel mines, 419 anti-tank mines and nearly 957,400 unexploded military supplies including bullets, mortars and cannons, he said.

More than 13 deminers had however been killed over the past eight months, increasing the challenge to meet a 2013 deadline of clearing the entire country of mines, he said.