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Afghan Deminers Learn New Skills

Since 1988, over one-billion-three-hundred-million square meters of land in Afghanistan have been cleared of landmines and explosive remnants of war. With so much progress being made, the need for Afghan humanitarian deminers is decreasing, leaving a growing number of them unemployed.

To help these unemployed deminers find suitable work, the U.S. State Department is sponsoring a training program. The program established a vocational training center in Kandahar to impart new civilian skills such as carpentry, electrical work, painting, plumbing, and masonry. The first class of deminers from the Demining Agency for Afghanistan, or DAFA, graduated in January. A new class of former deminers from DAFA and from the Mine Clearance Planning Agency have begun training in peacetime skills at the vocational center. Like the first class, they will eventually enter the civilian workforce and help shape Afghanistan’s future.

This remarkable indicator of success in clearing so many of Afghanistan’s "hidden killers" is thanks to the hard work of thousands of Afghan deminers, who are renown for their courage, dedication, and expertise. Some were killed or badly injured in the process. Other have been murdered by insurgents and criminal gangs. In March, unidentified gunmen ambushed and killed five Afghan deminers working on a United Nations-funded mission in northern Jawzjan province. Seven other people were wounded in the attack.

Success in mine clearance is also due to the hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian mine action assistance that the United States has extended to Afghanistan since helping to launch humanitarian demining there in 1988.

In addition to assistance given to Afghanistan, the U.S. has helped Costa Rica, Djibouti, Guatemala, Honduras, Kosovo, Macedonia, Namibia, and Suriname to become free from the humanitarian impact of mines.

In a statement released by the Office of the Spokesman, the U.S. State Department said, "Our efforts are reflected in a major decrease in the number of landmine and explosive remnants of war casualties around the word. From an estimated twenty-six-thousand casualties four years ago, five-thousand-seven-hundred-fifty-one were reported worldwide in 2006. By working together, the United States, other donors, and the mine action community can continue working toward an ‘impact free’ world."