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ENNA with Handicap International is calling on all troop-contributing nations of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) to immediately mark and clear areas contaminated by explosive remnants of war (ERW) and to provide non-discriminating and impartial assistance to all the victims of the conflict. Military bases and firing ranges are now being closed at a rapid rate but have not been systematically cleared of ERW stored, abandoned or used by military personnel. Furthermore, all the maps of land contaminated by ISAF operations are not yet being made available and people are not sufficiently aware of the risks they face, hampering efforts to prevent further civilian casualties. Extra thousands square kilometres of land are now contaminated by ERW from ISAF’s operations, posing a threat to Afghan lives. According to UNAMA, the number of reported civilian casualties of ERW increased dramatically in 2013 and 2014.

NATO will be holding a summit in Newport on 4th and 5th September 2014 as it prepares to bring an end to thirteen years of military operations in Afghanistan. The summit hopes to secure the successful withdrawal of ISAF by ensuring the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces and their ability to maintain the country’s security through a training and support mission beyond December 2014.

ENNA with Handicap International will take this opportunity to remind governments attending the summit of the need to mark and clear all areas contaminated by their ERW and to finance a wide-reaching victim assistance program as part of the transition process. ERW marking, clearance, removal and destruction as well as victim assistance are compulsory under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol V, to which most of the ISAF troop-contributing nations are party. 

International military bases, including firing ranges, which have been closing and their perimeter progressively handed back for civilian use since 2010 have not been systematically cleared of ERW. An estimated 2,000 sq.km. of land have been contaminated by grenades, rockets and mortar shells that could explode at any time, killing or wounding civilians. More than 300 sites of battles are also littered with ERW used by ISAF. These risk areas have not been properly mapped. The current lack of data hinders a comprehensive estimation of the clearance costs or the exact surface to be cleared. 

One of the key challenges is to obtain precise data from the international military forces.The governments of ISAF troop-contributing nations have to allocate a ERW clearance budget and define a clearance strategy, despite a step-up in troop withdrawals”, says Anna Nijsters, Director of ENNA, the Brussels based European Network of NGOs in Afghanistan to which Handicap International is a member organisation.

                                        

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported a 14% increase in civilian casualties caused by ERW  during the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 (206 civilian casualties in total; 76% of which were children). This follows a dramatic 63% increase in 2013 compared to 2012 (343 casualties in total, 83% of which were children).

Rahmatulla Gholam Reza, became a landmine victim at the age of 9. Today, he is an active member of a Ban Advocates group and he fears for Afghan civilian casualties, especially for children: “My country was already one of the most contaminated countries in the world even before ISAF intervened. We need to ensure that the NATO-member countries meet their commitments to mark and clear ERW so they do not lead to the loss of more child casualties. I lost both of my legs as a child when I stepped on a landmine and it completely changed my life since. I don’t want to see that happening to anybody else.”

Present in the country for almost 20 years (1996), Handicap International, which has witnessed a rise in the damage caused by ERW, is outraged by the unbearable situation facing civilians. More than 180 people, including several mine and ERW victims, work for Handicap International in Afghanistan. Their efforts focus on physical rehabilitation, victim assistance, and mine/ERW risk education. 

 

 

 

 

ENNA & HI  Press Release   Press_Release_ ENNA_HI__1sept2014 

 

Facts and Data  Brief_-_Civilian_casualties_of_Explosive_Remnants_of_War_August_2014.docx

 

UNAMA Reports  UNAMA_2013_-_Protectionof_Civilians-Annual_Report_2013

                       UNAMA_2014_-_Protection_of_Civilians_MYR_2014_9_July_2014