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The United States works with other nations to clean up the deadly debris of war, including landmines and explosive remnants of war. Since 1993, the U.S. has provided a total of more than $1.4 billion to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance. In 2008 alone, the U.S. State Department provided $123.1 million in such assistance to 35 countries.
One of those countries is Afghanistan. Mines and explosive remnants of war killed or injured more than 445 Afghans in 2008, an average of 37 victims per month. The UN Mine Action Program for Afghanistan, supported by the United States Department of State, has already cleared almost two-thirds of all hazards discovered to date, but vast areas remain contaminated due to on-going conflict and inaccessibility because of difficult terrain and deteriorating infrastructure.
The majority of areas infested by explosive remnants of war are agricultural fields, irrigation canals and grazing areas, as well as roads and residential and commercial areas. An equally significant problem is the existence of large amounts of unexploded ordnance. The ubiquitous presence of these explosives and weapons makes social and economic reconstruction in Afghanistan extremely difficult.
The State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement provided more than $28 million in 2009 for the Conventional Weapons Destruction Program in Afghanistan. These funds enabled nongovernmental organizations and private-sector partners to clear explosive remnants of war-contaminated areas, care for victims of conflict, and destroy or secure abandoned, or otherwise at-risk, munitions and explosive ordnance.
The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement supports the training, equipping, and funding of 7 Afghan explosive ordnance disposal teams throughout Afghanistan. Since 2006, these teams have destroyed or secured more than 9000 metric tons of unexploded, abandoned, or otherwise at-risk munitions. In addition, the office has provided funding to 5 Afghan demining organizations to enable them to conduct similar life-saving work.
It is impossible to clear every landmine in every affected country. That’s why the U.S. is focused on clearing landmines, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, with the highest humanitarian impact. Funds are, therefore, devoted to clearing areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance pose a grave threat to civilian populations, rather than on clearing mines or remnants of war that are in remote, unpopulated areas. This approach is making a positive difference in Afghanistan and around the world.