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Landmine Awareness Day - Ask an Expert
Every year, April 4 marks the International Day for Landmine Awareness, sponsored by the United Nations since 2006. Landmines – explosive weapons that are placed under or on top of the ground – affect conflict-torn places even after fighting has ended. They cause injuries and death, mainly to ordinary people trying to rebuild their lives, and they hamper social and economic development in the aftermath of conflict.
Ann-Louise Colgan is Director of the Global Peacebuilding Center. She has worked for many years on issues related to peace and conflict in Africa and elsewhere, including working with organizations seeking to address the problem of landmines in post-conflict situations. She answered questions about landmines submitted by users like you.
Question & Answer
I have a question about the number of landmines in Afghanistan. I have read estimates ranging from 100,000 to 30 million and was wondering why the wide spread in opinion?
Thank you for your question. It is very difficult to confirm the numbers of landmines in any active conflict situation or post-conflict situation for several reasons: violent conflict is often chaotic and many of those who lay mines do not keep records of their activities; in the aftermath of conflict, societies often have a range of peacebuilding priorities and quite limited resources, so simply assessing the extent of the landmine problem can be challenging.
For these and other reasons, in Afghanistan and many other countries, estimating the number of landmines can be tricky and imprecise. Often, as our colleagues at the Marshall Legacy Institute point out, a better measure of contamination level is the estimated number of square meters or kilometers of land that is suspected of mine contamination. There are a number of organizations worldwide, and also in Afghanistan, that conduct surveys to help determine what areas might be contaminated.
The Landmine Monitor is often cited as one good source of information on the problem of landmines around the world. Each year, its staff compiles large amounts of information about landmine-affected countries from those working on the ground in those places. The Landmine Monitor’s latest report on Afghanistan is available online.