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Diplomacy in Action


To Walk the Earth in Safety: The United States Commitment to Humanitarian Demining
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
September 2002

Flag of AfghanistanAfghanistan


The Landmine Problem
Afghanistan remains severely affected by landmines and UXO. According to the UN Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA), the situation has worsened since the coalition activities began on October 7, 2001. Prior to the current conflict, MAPA identified 723 kilometers2 of land as being mine-affected, and had assessed 344 kilometers2 of this area as being a high priority for clearance. The UN estimates that the country is infested with five to seven million landmines, but some NGOs claim that, based on their clearance experiences in heavily mined areas, the UN estimate is too high. The U.S. Government believes there are more than three million landmines and a countless quantity of UXO. The most heavily mined areas are in the provinces bordering Iran and Pakistan. Most mines are located in agricultural fields, irrigation canals, and grazing areas. Mines are also found on roads and in residential and commercial areas. Security belts of landmines also exist around major cities, airports, government installations, and power stations. An equally significant problem is UXO that, even prior to the ongoing conflict, inflicted extensive injuries and destruction.

According to MAPA, there are some 200,000 mine and UXO accident survivors and, prior to the initiation of recent military activities, the death and injury rate ran at some 150-300 per month. MAPA suggests that "mine and UXO injuries have escalated due to the new contamination and also due to increased population movement, often in unfamiliar areas, as people shift to avoid areas of fighting or return to newly secure locations." According to MAPA, UXO, not landmines, now cause approximately 80 percent of the casualties experienced in Afghanistan.

United States Assistance
Through FY01, the United States provided its assistance for humanitarian demining activities through the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA). UN oversight of the program in Afghanistan transferred from UNOCHA to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) early in 2002.

In FY02, the United States provided nearly $11,600,000 to support a wide range of mine-action initiatives in support of MAPA. Of this amount, HALO Trust received $3,200,000 to clear landmines from priority sites, such as roads, key economic infrastructure, residential areas, and other sites used by humanitarian relief organizations. Another $3,100,000 went to RONCO, a U.S. commercial demining firm, to provide specialized UXO removal training to Afghan demining NGOs, so that they will be able to restore the full tempo of UXO and mine-clearance operations around the country. An FY02 assistance grant of $700,000 went to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to fund mine-risk education initiatives, to be implemented by Save the Children, an American NGO. In addition, the DoD contributed more than $3,700,000 of the FY02 total assistance to provide technical advisors and to support clearance efforts around the critical airstrips of Kandahar and Bagram. Finally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control provided $800,000 to the VVAF to provide a post-conflict landmine/UXO contamination assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the level of new contamination by landmines and UXO, and to measure the incidence of war-related injuries and disabilities. The United States divided its FY01 contribution of $2,800,000 between UNOCHA ($800,000 for demining equipment, $900,000 for mine clearance) and HALO Trust ($1,100,000 for mine clearance).

Since FY89, the United States has provided more than $39,000,000 in humanitarian demining assistance to Afghanistan. In 1998, the U.S. Government tested a prototype system—the Airspade—to uncover landmines and eliminate the need for probing. In 1989, USAID funded the original MDD program, turning it over to the UN in 1994. Today, the MDD Center bears responsibility for the program and breeds and trains all MDDs used in Afghanistan. Through the years, U.S. assistance has also paid for mine-awareness programs, minefield surveys and marking, deminer training, and mine clearance.

MAPA oversees one of the most effective demining programs in the world. Mine- awareness briefings to more than seven million people have contributed significantly to lowering the landmine casualty rate by an estimated 50 percent through mid-2002. By the end of 2001, Afghani deminers had cleared more than 224 kilometers2 of high-priority, mine-infested land and 321 kilometers2 of former battlefield areas, while destroying approximately 210,000 landmines and 985,000 pieces of UXO.

As a result of these efforts, more than 1.5 million refugees and IDPs have been able to return to their homes. In addition, the cleared land has enabled MAPA to provide employment opportunities to more than 9,200 farmers and industrial workers, increased agricultural outputs (valued at $14.2 million U.S. dollars), and livestock production (valued at $43.4 million U.S. dollars).

In spite of the current military situation, MAPA reports that clearance operations have returned to 100 percent of their previous capacity, and although ongoing security constraints limit operations in some areas, MAPA is expanding its mine-clearance capacities. In 2001, 113 clearance teams were in operation, and MAPA plans to increase the number of teams to 201 by the end of 2002.

In the first quarter of 2002, mine-clearance organizations coordinated by MAPA cleared 23,825,611 meters2 of high-priority areas contaminated with mines and UXO, and destroyed 17,728 mines and 1,864,052 UXO items. In addition, another 32,091,000 meters2 of land have been returned to productive use in various communities. This turnover is due to successful survey work conducted under MAPA's auspices. It estimates that another 75,000,000 meters2 of land will be cleared by the end of 2002, and a further 60,000,000 meters2 of land will be turned over as a result of survey work that has shown that some land suspected of being mined is not.

Also in the first quarter of 2002, MAPA reported that 751 anti-tank and 16,196 anti-personnel mines and 251,169 UXO devices have been cleared. MAPA has reported that the clearance of cluster munitions is being achieved at a rate faster than anticipated. All known cluster munition strike sites have been surveyed where access has been possible and are now in the process of being cleared.

Flag of CambodiaCambodia


The Landmine Problem

The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) estimates that between 300,000 and 1,000,000 landmines and more than 2,500,000 pieces of UXO are contaminating 2,000 kilometers2 of Cambodian soil. The northwest region remains the most heavily mined area, accounts for the largest number of casualties and, therefore, is the highest demining priority. In addition, two central and southern provinces contain large areas of suspected minefields. A combined CMAC and Geo-Spatial survey found that mines and UXO had contaminated 45.5 percent of the villages surveyed. Aerial-delivered UXO is found mainly in the eastern and central provinces. Landmines and UXO have killed or injured more than 30,000 people. In 2001, 813 casualties were recorded, and in 2000, the number of casualties was 847. However, these figures are significantly lower than in the preceding years, and the number continues to drop. Despite this progress, mines and UXO constitute a serious problem and a long-term threat that has a severe impact on the socio-economic development of the country.

United States Assistance
In FY02, the United States allocated $4,475,000 for humanitarian demining in Cambodia, and in FY01, it provided more than $4,500,000 for mine clearance and the acquisition of demining equipment and personal protective gear.

Cambodia has received almost $30,000,000 in U.S. humanitarian demining assistance since FY93. This funding has augmented financial assistance from the UN Development Program Trust Fund and other international donors, allowing Cambodia to obtain necessary demining training and equipment. Between 1994 and 1997, U.S. military personnel trained 1,200 Cambodians in basic mine-awareness activities, demining techniques, and medical skills. In addition, the UN, using U.S. assistance funds, provided additional demining training to 537 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces engineers. In FY01 and FY02, U.S. military teams were sent to instruct medical, explosive aid, and vehicle maintenance disciplines. In 2000, the DoD provided a highly effective system for vegetation clearance—the Pearson Survivable Demining Tractor and Tools—to an NGO operating in Cambodia for field-testing and evaluation. The LWVF supports a variety of programs addressing the physical, social, and economic reintegration of persons disabled by landmines. Since 1996, USAID has invested more than $7,000,000 in Cambodia's prosthetics and rehabilitation programs to strengthen the range of services provided through national rehabilitation centers to landmine survivors. The funds support the Disability Action Council, a semi-autonomous body that has been delegated authority by the Royal Cambodian Government to oversee all programs related to people with disabilities, and VVAF supports four rehabilitation centers in the country.

The Cambodian humanitarian demining program is now in the sustainment phase, with a fully trained staff of about 2,400 Cambodians, 35 foreign technical advisors, and six UN staff members. The information in the Cambodian Red Cross Mine Incident Database has proved invaluable to CMAC, NGOs, and donors in making informed planning and prioritization decisions. U.S. and international assistance has lowered reported landmine casualties from 2,799 in 1996 to 813 in 2001, a reduction of almost 70 percent.

These statistics reflect the success of large- and small-scale mine clearance and mine-marking operations, as well as an aggressive mine-awareness campaign conducted by demining groups and other NGOs. One of every 45 Cambodians is an amputee, and USAID funds have not only enabled Cambodia's prosthetics and rehabilitation programs to provide mobility assistance to nearly 10,000 landmine victims and other people with disabilities, but also have been instrumental in the development and success of a national coordinating agency for the disabled. Since 1992, when funding support for the VVAF Cambodia Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Program began, the Kien Khleang Physical Rehabilitation Center has become a globally recognized facility offering a full range of services. USAID's program has provided and fit landmine victims with 7,200 prostheses and 7,200 orthotic braces.

The U.S.-funded heavy equipment, including tractors, vegetation-cutters and mini-flails, continues to assist deminers greatly, accelerating the pace of their activities by as much as 60 percent. From 1992 to June 2001, CMAC deminers cleared some 87,500,000 meters2 of land and destroyed 143,000 mines and 620,000 pieces of UXO, while HALO Trust has cleared 16,000,000 meters2 of land and eliminated approximately 30,000 mines and nearly 25,000 pieces of UXO. In just under two years, MAG has cleared nearly 269,000 meters2 of suspect land, finding 168 mines and 637 pieces of UXO. Almost 90 percent of the clearance effort has been to reclaim land for resettlement, agriculture, and roadways.

Flag of LaosLaos


The Landmine Problem
Between 1964 and 1973, intense ground combat and the air campaign during the war in Vietnam that released approximately two million tons of ordnance—up to 30 percent of which may not have exploded—left more than 87,000 kilometers2 of Laos, approximately two-thirds of the country's land area, infested with landmines and UXO. No realistic estimates exist of either the number of landmines or of unexploded submunitions, referred to by the Laos as "bombies." The presence of UXO is widespread in nine of Laos's 17 provinces, and the most contaminated areas are in the northern provinces of Houaphan and Xieng Khouang, and along the border with Vietnam. The widespread UXO contamination not only causes death and injuries, but also denies the use of agricultural land and prevents the restoration of economic infrastructure in those regions. From 1987 through 1996, the number of UXO victims averaged 240 annually, a sharp drop from the average of 1,100 annually for 1973 through 1976. Nevertheless, UXO continues to wound and kill a significant number of Lao citizens, and inhibits efforts to expand agriculture and infrastructure. In 2001, mines caused 122 casualties; of the 122, 51 were children, 35 were fatalities.

United States Assistance
Laos received $2,328,000 in U.S. humanitarian demining assistance in FY02. In FY01, the United States allocated almost $1,000,000 in total assistance, $293,000 for demining equipment, and $700,000 for the Lao Trust Fund.

The United States is the single largest donor to the mine and UXO clearance program in Laos, having contributed more than $23,000,000 since FY96, and it is also the most significant provider of a variety of humanitarian demining-related assistance, including training and U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency funds. The United States funds operating expenses throughout the country and has provided particular support to the UXO LAO National Training Center and community mine-awareness visits. U.S. assistance helped establish the NDO, and supports the Center, staffed by Lao instructors, that offers courses in community awareness, mine and UXO clearance techniques, medical training, and leadership development. U.S. funds also supported mine and UXO awareness in seven provinces, mine and UXO clearance in another six provinces, and established rapid response teams in the remaining four provinces. Additionally, the U.S. Government contributed five prototype demining technologies for evaluation in 1998.

Since 1995, the LWVF has contributed more than $5,350,000 to support rehabilitation services for UXO and landmine victims, UXO awareness programs, and to develop emergency response capabilities to UXO traumas. In 1995, a $2,100,000 grant was awarded to the Consortium, a partnership developed by several U.S. NGOs, to upgrade medical, surgical, and emergency facilities and services while promoting mine awareness. Under a current $2,600,000 partnership with the Consortium, the LWVF is supporting the upgrade of medical, surgical, and emergency services, facilities and human resources and, in collaboration with UNICEF, a national primary school UXO awareness curriculum.

U.S. military personnel have trained more than 1,200 Lao, creating an indigenous demining capability as well as the capacity to train additional personnel. From FY96, when U.S. assistance began, through June 2001, UXO LAO personnel have destroyed almost 363,000 pieces of UXO, and cleared more than 32,700,000 meters2 of land, now used primarily for agriculture. UXO LAO personnel also conducted mine-/UXO-awareness visits in more than 2,400 villages. Thus far, more than 300 Lao medical staff members have received training in emergency rehabilitation or laboratory services, and one provincial and five district hospitals have received medical equipment and supplies. The LWVF assistance has also provided free medical treatment to UXO victims. With U.S. help, Laos has decreased steadily the cost per hectare for its clearance operations, and maintained an excellent safety record. Laos is now in the sustainment phase of its program.

Flag of Sri LankaSri Lanka


The Landmine Problem
In March 2002, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a ceasefire agreement and began planning for peace talks to take place in a neutral country. The 18-year-long civil war left many landmines and UXO in the ground. Because no accurate countrywide survey of the mine/UXO threat has been conducted, an accurate estimate of their numbers and the areas they affect is impossible to calculate. The most heavily mined and UXO-littered areas are Jaffna in the north (controlled by the Government of Sri Lanka) and the areas directly to the south of Jaffna, stretching to Trincomalee and Batticaloa on the east coast (controlled by the LTTE). The overall number of refugees and IDPs expected to resettle in Sri Lanka is estimated to be about 800,000. Through the year 2000, 499 landmine casualties were reported, most of which were military personnel.

United States Assistance
Following a request from the Government of Sri Lanka for demining assistance in March 2002, the United States conducted an initial assessment of the mine situation. In April, two QRDF demining teams with MDDs were deployed to Sri Lanka from their home base in Mozambique. The two teams were tasked to perform emergency clearance operations supporting the return of refugees and IDPs to areas from which they had fled during the war.

The United States contributed $1,475,000 in FY02, bringing U.S. contributions to a total of $3,325,000 since FY95. QRDF team mine clearance began in early May 2002 in the key village of Sarasalai, about 15 kilometers from Jaffna, where many Tamil civilians, taking advantage of the ceasefire, are returning to their homes and fields in the area. As of early August 2002, the QRDF teams had returned 32,500 meters2 of land to safe use in the Jaffna area, having destroyed 621 mines and 60 UXO devices in the process. More than 100,000 IDPs have returned to their homes in the north and east since December 2001. In July 2002, a joint DOS-DoD demining assessment team visited Sri Lanka to examine further possible demining steps, such as military-to-military training for humanitarian demining, and in August, the United States provided additional funding to continue QRDF operations through October 2002.

Flag of ThailandThailand


The Landmine Problem

During the past four decades, Thailand's internal and external conflicts have left landmine and UXO contamination along all four of its borders, with new mines being laid along the northwestern Thai-Burma border. The Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC) estimates that the country's soil contains more than one million mines and UXO. The results of a Landmine Impact Survey show that landmines and UXO are present at 933 sites occupying an area of 2,500 kilometers2, affecting 530 communities with a cumulative population of more than 400,000. The principal socio-economic impacts of landmine and UXO contamination are reduced availability of land for cultivation and grazing, and decreased access to forest resources. According to TMAC, landmines and UXO have killed or injured 3,468 people since 1997; however, the casualty rate is decreasing, with 346 casualties reported during 1999-2000.

United States Assistance
The United States provided $801,000 in humanitarian demining assistance to Thailand in FY02. Some of the funds enabled U.S. military personnel to conduct two final train-the-trainer sessions. Remaining funds supported field operations conducted by Thai demining forces. In FY01, Thailand received $1,510,000 in assistance, $1,160,000 for demining equipment, and $350,000 for an MDD program.

U.S. humanitarian demining assistance to Thailand has totaled more than $6,500,000 since FY98. In addition to providing essential demining equipment, the funds have helped to establish facilities for basic demining training at Ratchaburi, and a demining school at Lop Buri to teach mine awareness. The funds also helped to establish the MDD program. A total of 26 dogs were purchased for both Humanitarian Mine Action Unit (HMAU) and MDD-handler courses. U.S. military personnel have trained more than 200 Thais to international humanitarian demining standards.

The DoD has provided several systems for field testing in Thailand: the Pearson Survivable Demining Tractor and Tools, the Tempest, Thiokol demining flares, and liquid explosive foam. TMAC personnel not only demonstrated the effectiveness of two vegetation clearance systems, they also gained invaluable experience in integrating mechanical systems into their demining operations.

In June 2000, the Government of Thailand dedicated the TMAC. Demining continues in the Sa Kaeo, Chantaburi, Ratchaburi, and Nong Ya Khao Provinces. A quality assurance committee has, for the first time, approved the use of TMAC-cleared land. This significant step highlights TMAC's achievements in becoming a bona-fide MAC. Through the combined efforts of the HMAU, manual deminers, machines and dog teams, 56,544 meters2 of land have been cleared in the Nong Yah Kaew village in Sa Kaew Province. TMAC's U.S.-trained trainers at Ratchaburi have instructed 18 Thai civilian deminers, and they are now a most effective resource for mine-awareness activities in their communities. In May 2002, two cleared areas totaling almost 40,000 meters2 were returned to the Subtaree Village in Chantaburi Province. Local communities continue to reap benefits from these handovers, planting cassava and other crops. Overall, by the end of 2001, Thai deminers had destroyed almost 1,000 mines and approximately 1,300 pieces of UXO, while clearing more than 4,956,000 meters2 of land. With U.S. support, Thailand has emerged as a regional leader in humanitarian demining.

Flag of VietnamVietnam


The Landmine Problem
As a result of 30 years of war, Vietnam has an estimated 350,000-800,000 tons of landmines and various types of UXO scattered throughout all 61 provinces and major cities. The current estimated area of contamination is 16,478,000,000 meters2. Quang Tri Province, which adjoins the former border between North and South Vietnam, is one of the most affected regions of Vietnam, although mines and UXO also pose a threat near its border with China and in regions bordering Laos. A 1999 Government of Vietnam report claimed that, as of May 1998, landmines and UXO had killed 38,248 and injured 64,064 people. USAID has observed that, with more than 2,000 landmine casualties annually, Vietnam has been left with perhaps the world's highest proportion of amputees.

United States Assistance
Vietnam received $3,638,000 in U.S. humanitarian mine-action assistance in FY02. In FY01, the United States allocated $3,218,000 in assistance for the purchase of demining equipment, including personal safety equipment, metal detectors, and vehicles, and for assistance to survivors of landmine accidents. The assist-ance also supported a much-needed Landmine Impact Survey to determine the scope of the landmine and UXO problem, and to assist the Vietnamese in identifying areas where landmines and UXO pose the greatest threat to civilians, arable land, and economic infrastructure. Complementary projects include the funding of a computer system and database designed to identify the location of landmines and the location and type of UXO used during past conflicts. Another new computer system will assist the Government of Vietnam in managing its mine and UXO clearances efforts, and in FY01, DoD conducted a special computer course for Vietnamese deminers.

Although Vietnam did not formally enter the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program until 2000, the United States provided funds in 1998 and 1999 to Peace Trees Vietnam, an NGO, and to James Madison University, to establish a mine-awareness training center. The center, located at Dong Ha, in Quang Tri Province, focuses on mine awareness for children, using local "people's committees" to conduct the training. Additionally, U.S. Army Pacific, the U.S. Pacific Command's Army component, provided a field hospital to augment the ability of the Quang Tri Provincial Medical Department to provide medical assistance to mine/UXO victims and injured deminers.

Since 1991, the LWVF has been a leader in providing support for rehabilitation assistance in Vietnam. To date, the LWVF has provided more than $16,000,000 through numerous NGOs and private voluntary organizations.

Through the LWVF, more than 3,000 rehabilitated personnel have received training, nine rehabilitation centers have been renovated and upgraded, and more than 52,000 people have been provided with mobility assistance.

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