Posted By: Erica

On May 30th, 110 nations [now 111] signed the Cluster Munitions Treaty in Dublin, Ireland. The treaty bans the use, development and stockpiling of cluster munitions–a type of weapon that when dropped aerially or ground-launched, disperses hundreds or thousands of tiny submunitions (or bomblets) that can cover an area as wide as a football field. The submunitions are designed to explode on impact, but in many cases they don’t, leaving behind what are functionally hundreds of mini-landmines. The Cluster Munition Treaty recognizes requires clean up and – finally – assistance to civilians harmed.

Afghanistan is at the top of the list among the countries where cluster munitions, landmines, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) are still a problem. Mine casualties have been reported in 32 of the 34 provinces according to the United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (UNMACA). Since 1979, approximately 3,000 Afghans have been killed due to landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), and another 17,500 have been injured. While cluster munitions do not make up the bulk of left over explosives in Afghanistan, they have been a serious problem since 2001 when the United States used them.

Mine removal and awareness programs have been active in the country since that time, but ongoing conflict in many areas makes it hard to keep up. Cleared areas become contaminated again with new ordinance, most often dropped unintentionally but still at great risk to Afghan civilians. Meanwhile new violence makes many contaminated areas “off limits” for safety programs that could keep Afghans safe. The number of Afghans injured or killed by mine/ERWs has been reduced to 50 to 60 per month – this from approximately 150 per month about two years ago. But without more funding and attention to the issue, the UNMACA official I spoke to suggested that all they could do was keep pace.

UPDATE: Today I went back to visit the ACAP field office I first visited in February. At the time, the ACAP staff were considering reaching out to a remote village called S_____ that has received little to no international assistance because

Image courtesy of CIVIC