The Landmine Problem
Afghanistan remains severely affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). According to the UN Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA), the situation worsened after Coalition activities against the Al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban authority began on October 7, 2001. Prior to the current conflict, MAPA identified 780 square kilometers of land as being mine-affected and had assessed 404 square kilometers of this area as a high priority for clearance. The UN estimates that the country is infested with five to seven million landmines, but some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) claim that, based on their clearance experiences in heavily mined areas, the UN estimate is far too high. While no one can specify a firm figure for the quantity of emplaced landmines, the actual findings from demining and area-reduction operations now seem to indicate that the figure may be closer to one million mines, a serious threat nonetheless. 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 Coalition activities against the Taliban, inflicted extensive injuries and destruction.
According to MAPA, there are some 200,000 mine and UXO accident survivors, and, prior to the initiation of military action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the death and injury rate ran at some 150-300 incidents 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
Since FY89 (October 1988) and through the end of FY03, the United States has provided more than $63,604,000 in humanitarian mine action funds to Afghanistan. The United States allocated $22,925,000 to Afghanistan in humanitarian mine action funds for FY03 alone. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) provided $1,000,000 in assistance to 11 national and international NGOs to increase the quality and scope of rehabilitation services delivered. The United States granted RONCO Consulting Corporation, a U.S.-funded commercial demining contractor, $2,300,000 to assist the transfer of demining skills to local NGOs and to support MAPA and explosive ordnance disposal training. USAID expended an additional $190 million to reconstruct the Kabul-to-Kandahar highway, of which $10 million was devoted to demining and UXO clearance along that route. The Hazardous Area Life-Support Organization (HALO) Trust received $2,100,000 from the U.S. Department of State for mine clearance operations, and UN Mine Action Service received $2,600,000 from the U.S. Department of State to fund local NGOs working in Afghanistan.
In FY02, the United States provided $12,864,000 to support a wide range of mine action initiatives in support of MAPA. Of this amount, The 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 Consulting Corporation 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 to fund mine risk education initiatives, to be implemented by Save the Children, an American NGO. In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense 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 and Prevention provided $800,000 to another NGO, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, to provide a post-conflict landmine/UXO contamination assessment. The purpose of the assessment was 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 and $900,000 for mine clearance) and The HALO Trust ($1,100,000 for mine clearance). A U.S. Government prototype system—the Airspade—has been used in Afghanistan to uncover landmines that eliminates the need for probing.
In 1989, the USAID funded the original mine detecting dog (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.
U.S. support for humanitarian mine action in Afghanistan has, through September 30, 2003, enabled more than 1.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes. In addition, the clearance of 23,825,611 square meters of high-priority areas in the first quarter of 2002 enabled MAPA to employ more than 9,200 farmers and industrial workers. Agricultural outputs valued at $14.2 million, and livestock production valued at $43.4 million, have increased.
Demining operations by The HALO Trust in 2002, funded by the United States, covered a large geographical area and removed thousands of mines and UXO. HALO Trust demining teams worked in the provinces of Kabul, Parwan, Baghlan, Balkh, Kunduz and Takhar and cleared a total of 11,608 mines, 2,743 UXO, 2,530 BLU cluster munitions, and 46,707 rounds of stray ammunition, and covered a total land area of 1,015,129 square meters by manual teams, 279,668 square meters by mechanical teams, and 8,339,531 square meters by battlefield-area clearance teams. In addition, 1,335,748 square meters of land were surveyed.
USAID underwrote the majority of the demining and reconstruction of the vital Kabul-to-Kandahar highway that reopened to traffic in December 2003 after more than 1,060 landmines and UXO were cleared. The completion of this first key phase in the reconstruction of Afghanistan's national highway system reduced travel time between the capital and Kandahar from two days to five hours, enhancing health care for Afghans, increasing labor mobility, offering greater diversity of products and services due to increased inter-provincial trade, enabling farmers with wheat surpluses in the north to have access to wheat deficient markets in the south and fostering national unity. In June 2003, the United States assisted in the destruction of more than 10,000 anti-vehicle mines in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. The landmines were located in an unsecured ammunition supply point where terrorists had access to explosive materials. Teams from RONCO Consulting Corporation, the Demining Agency for Afghanistan and Handicap International Belgium destroyed the mines in nine days, adhering to international standards.
Finally, while unexploded cluster munitions from Operation Enduring Freedom constituted only a small fraction of the UXO problem in Afghanistan, special efforts were made to survey and clear all accessible areas.
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 unexploded ordnance (UXO) contaminate 2,000 square kilometers 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 Landmine Impact 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 casualty rate continues to drop. Despite this progress, mines and UXO constitute a serious problem and a long-term threat that has a severe humanitarian impact and hinders the socio-economic development of the country.
United States Assistance
Cambodia has received more than $36,120,000 in U.S. humanitarian mine action assistance since FY93. This funding augmented financial assistance from the UN Development Program Trust Fund and other international donors, allowing Cambodia to obtain demining training and equipment. In FY03, the U.S. Department of State provided $2,765,000 in grants to CMAC, The Hazardous Area Life-Support Organization (HALO) Trust and Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for operations in Cambodia. This funding was for mine clearance operations and the acquisition of demining equipment and personal protective gear.
The U.S. Department of Defense has provided tools for vegetation clearance—a highly effective system called the Pearson Survivable Demining Tractor and Tools—to a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Cambodia for field-testing and evaluation. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) supports programs addressing the physical, social and economic reintegration of persons disabled by landmines. USAID has invested more than $11,000,000 in Cambodia's prosthetics and rehabilitation programs, providing services to landmine survivors through national rehabilitation centers. The funds support the Disability Action Council, a semi-autonomous body with delegated authority by the Government to oversee all programs related to people with disabilities, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) supports four rehabilitation centers in the country. In 2003, two Department of State and USAID LWVF-supported animated public service messages created by Warner Bros. espousing mine risk education and mine survivors' social acceptance were broadcast by Cambodian television stations nationwide. Both messages featured the cartoon characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and an animated Cambodian boy landmine survivor named "Rith," speaking in Khmer. The messages were designed to reinforce existing mine risk education and mine survivor efforts in Cambodia.
The Cambodian program now has 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 have 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 and an aggressive mine risk education campaign conducted by demining groups and other NGOs.
USAID funds have enabled Cambodia's prosthetics and rehabilitation programs to provide mobility assistance to about 10,000 landmine victims and other people with disabilities and 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. In 2003 alone, USAID's program produced and fit 980 prostheses, 2,400 orthoses and 500 wheelchairs.
U.S.-funded heavy equipment, including tractors, vegetation-cutters and mini-flails, continues to assist deminers, accelerating the pace of their activities by as much as 60 percent. From 1992 to June 2003, CMAC, HALO, MAG and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces deminers cleared a total of 199.98 square kilometers of land. From March 2002 to February 2003, HALO cleared 36 minefields totaling 1,036,597 square meters of land and removed 778 anti-personnel (AP) mines, 39 anti-tank mines and 2,182 pieces of UXO. From June 1, 2002 to May 31, 2003, MAG cleared 240,820 square meters of land, finding and destroying 64 AP mines, and 171 items of UXO in the northern province of Preah Vihear, directly benefiting 281 families and indirectly benefiting 792 families for resettlement, agriculture, schools and road access.
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 square kilometers of Laos, approximately two-thirds of the country's land area, infested with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). No realistic estimates exist as to the number of landmines or unexploded submunitions, referred to by the Laos as "bombies." The presence of UXO is widespread in nine of Laos's 17 provinces. 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 from 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, landmines caused 122 casualties; of the 122, 51 were children, and, of these, 35 were fatalities.
United States Assistance
The United States is the single largest donor to the landmine and UXO clearance program in Laos, having contributed more than $24,000,000 since Fiscal Year 1995, and it is also the most significant provider of a variety of humanitarian mine action-related assistance, including training and U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency funds. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2003, the U.S. Department of State provided Laos with $1,200,000 in humanitarian mine action funding. In FY02, the country received $1,828,000 in U.S. humanitarian mine action aid. The United States funds operating expenses throughout the country, and has provided particular support to the UXO LAO National Training Center and community mine risk education. U.S. assistance helped establish the National Demining Office and supports the Center, staffed by Lao instructors, that offers courses in community-based mine/UXO risk education, mine and UXO clearance techniques, medical training and leadership development. U.S. funds also supported mine and UXO awareness in seven provinces; supported mine and UXO clearance in another six provinces; established rapid response teams in the remaining four provinces; and provided five prototype demining technologies for evaluation.
U.S. military personnel have trained more than 1,200 Lao to International Mine Action Standards, 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 square meters 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 U.S. Agency for International Development's Leahy War Victims Fund supports The Consortium to work in two Laotian provinces to provide medical intervention and educational programs to reduce the effect of unexploded ordnance. The program has provided technical and management training to more than 400 medical, nursing and technical staff in the two provinces and upgraded the training skills of 110 medical staff. With its educational component, the program has brought a mine risk education program to 1,200 schools in 19 districts of the four provinces most highly affected by UXO; developed a curriculum of student-centered, activity-based instructional materials for more than 86,000 students in the five primary school grades; and provided training in student-centered teaching and learning to over 2,800 primary school principals and teachers.
The Landmine Problem
In February 2002, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire agreement and began planning for peace talks to take place in a neutral country. The 18-year-long civil war produced a serious landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem. 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). According to the United Nations Development Program, there are an estimated 100,000-150,000 mines in Jaffna. There could also be up to 400,000 mines in the Wanni region in the north, which is also controlled by the LTTE. The UN estimates that 10-20 Sri Lankans are killed or injured in mine/UXO accidents each month. Through the year 2000, 499 landmine casualties were reported, most of which were military personnel. There are fears that these figures could spike due to the steady return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to areas in the north and east. The overall number of refugees and IDPs expected to resettle in Sri Lanka is estimated to be about 800,000.
United States Assistance
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2003, the U.S. Department of State provided $2,400,000 to support the initial humanitarian mine action capacity building of the Sri Lankan Army. Also, FY02 and FY03, the U.S. Department of State provided $2,350,000 for two separate deployments of its Quick Reaction Demining Force (QRDF). Following a request from the Government of Sri Lanka for demining assistance in March 2002, the United States conducted an initial assessment of the landmine situation. In April, two U.S. Department of State QRDF teams with mine detecting dogs (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.
In October 2002, after seven months of operations, the U.S. Department of State's QRDF team working in the key village of Sarasalai, about 15 kilometers from Jaffna, successfully completed its clearance project. The team cleared approximately 122,000 square meters of land and removed 980 mines and 42 UXO, in accordance with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). In March 2003, a second QRDF team was tasked to operate on the Jaffna Peninsula. The team's principal operations focused on a site near the devastated town of Chavakachcheri, adjacent to the QRDF-cleared land in Sarasalai. The team removed 244 mines and 106 pieces of UXO, and cleared 72,208 square meters of land. Both QRDF operations have greatly assisted the safe return of some 500,000 IDPs left in the country. Since the unilateral cease-fires in December 2001, nearly 300,000 IDPs have returned to their homes in the north and east. Another Department of State-funded mission began in August 2003 to train Sri Lankan Army deminers at a facility in the southern part of the country. Using the "Train-the-Trainer" concept, the U.S. helped to build an indigenous demining/UXO clearance operational capacity by training two Sri Lankan Army demining platoons, including medics. 102 civilian landmine/UXO casualties were reported in 2003, a 28 percent reduction in the reported casualty figures for 2002. This improvement stemmed from the operations of the QRDF, the training of Sri Lankan Army deminers to IMAS standards, and a U.S.-supported, comprehensive mine risk education program implemented by UNICEF among high-risk populations.
The Landmine Problem
During the past four decades, Thailand's internal and external conflicts have left landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination along all four of its borders, and new mines are 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 square kilometers, 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 only 346 casualties reported during 1999-2000.
United States Assistance
U.S. humanitarian mine assistance to Thailand totals more than $7,269,000 since Fiscal Year (FY) 1998. The United States provided $718,000 in humanitarian mine action assistance to Thailand in FY 2002. 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 preceding years, funding had supported the procurement of demining equipment as well as the establishment of a mine detecting dog (MDD) program. A total of 26 dogs were purchased for both Humanitarian Mine Action Unit (HMAU) and MDD handler courses.
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 risk education. U.S. military personnel have trained more than 200 Thais to International Mine Action Standards.
The U.S. Department of Defense has provided several systems for field testing in Thailand: the Pearson Survivable Demining Tractor and Tools, the Tempest, Thiokol demining flares and LEXFOAM, a 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 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 square meters of land have been cleared in the Nong Yah Kaew village, 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 risk education activities in their communities. 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 square meters of land. In May 2002, two cleared areas totaling almost 40,000 square meters were returned to the Subtaree Village, Chantaburi Province. Local communities continue to reap benefits from these handovers, planting cassava and other crops. With U.S. support, Thailand has emerged as a regional leader in humanitarian mine action.
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 unexploded ordnance (UXO) scattered throughout all 61 provinces and major cities. The current estimated area of contamination is 16,478,000,000 square meters. 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. The U.S. Agency for International Development (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
The U.S. Department of State allocated $2,427,000 to Vietnam in Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 for equipment for BOMICO, the Vietnamese Army Engineer Command's Center for Bombs and Mines Treating Technology operations and to expand the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) operations in Quang Tri Province. In FY02, the country received $3,218,000 for equipment replacement and enhancement of BOMICO operations. Metal detectors have received the highest priority in this endeavor, followed by vehicles and specialized equipment, such as river demining equipment and tree cutters. In preceding years, United States assistance provided for the purchase of demining equipment, including personal protective equipment, metal detectors and vehicles and for assistance to survivors of landmine accidents. The assistance 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 not only landmines, but also the location and type of UXO used during past conflicts. Another new computer system will aid the Government of Vietnam in managing its mine and UXO clearances efforts.
Although Vietnam did not formally enter the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program until 2000, the United States provided funds in 1998 and 1999 to Peace Trees Vietnam, a non-governmental organization, and to the Mine Action Information Center at James Madison University, to establish a mine awareness training center. The center, located at Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province, focuses on mine risk education 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.
The VVAF agreed in February 2003 to assist Vietnam's Ministry of Defense in conducting a field survey in the central provinces of Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Ha Tinh. The U.S. Department of State is providing $6 million and experts to identify the most mine- and UXO-polluted areas in the region. After this preliminary phase, it is anticipated that the project will be implemented in additional provinces.
Since 1999, USAID's Leahy War Victims Fund and its partners have supported an increasingly sophisticated and appropriate response to the needs of Vietnam's population living with disabilities.
Among USAID-funded activities, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation's (VVAF) rehabilitation program, implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health, is based at two of the leading hospitals in Hanoi: the National Institute for Pediatrics (NIP) and Bach Mai University Hospital. More than 7,400 orthotic devices and 150 wheelchairs have been provided to mine survivors and other war victims from NIP and Bach Mai.
To meet the needs of the large disabled population living outside urban areas, VVAF - with support from Ford Vietnam Limited and collaboration from Bach Mai hospital and the National Institute of Pediatrics - began a Mobile Outreach Program. Since its 1999 inception, the program has visited 11 provinces, fitting more than 1,500 patients with 1,900 orthotic devices and delivering another 209 wheelchairs.
Viet-Nam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH) works to expand opportunities for the disabled by providing several hundred assistive devices and promoting legislation on barrier-free accessibility.
The Prosthetics Outreach Foundation is advancing the standards for orthopedic component technology by working with the BaVi Orthopedic Technology Center to develop more functional, durable and lighter orthopedic components. As a result, high-quality, locally-produced components are offered at reasonable cost to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese with disabilities.
Other forms of U.S. Government assistance, as well as the efforts of NGOs such as the VVAF, the United Nations Association of the USA's Adopt-A-Minefield program, the Landmine Survivors Network, Clear Path International, PeaceTrees Vietnam, Kids First, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and others have enabled Vietnam to make significant progress in clearing landmines and UXO and in restoring mobility and self-sufficiency to its war victims.