UNITED NATIONS, January 20. /TASS/. As many as 34 officers of the UN-supported Mine Action Program in Afghanistan (MAPA) were killed in Afghanistan in 2014, the UN reported on Monday.
According to the report, “2014 could prove to have been a major turning point in the country’s long and tortured history, it was also a year that had inflicted “immense and unprecedented tragedy” on the program’s personnel.”
“Over the year, MAPA was directly affected by 37 security incidents that resulted in 34 deaths among its personnel and 27 injuries, with an attack on a demining project near to a copper mine in Logar province in June and a second in Helmand province in December accounting for 19 of the deaths and nine injuries,” says the report.
UN Secretary-General’s deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said casualties among MAPA personnel last year are equal to the number of casualties over the four preceding years taken together.
“The total of 34 deminers killed in 2014 is almost equal to the total number over the previous four years combined,” said a press statement released by the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA), which is managed by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS).
Afghanistan has witnessed widespread and indiscriminate use of mines and munitions over more than 30 years of conflict, making it one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. The UN Mine Action Service has supported MAPA since 2002.
In a news release condemning the 13 December attack on the deminers in southern Helmand province, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, said, “The deliberate targeting and killing of deminers removing explosive ordnance in order to make Afghanistan a safer place is particularly odious and totally unacceptable.” Highlighting the critical work thousands of deminers do in Afghanistan, MAPA said the preservation of MAPA’s neutrality is key to its continued services to communities in the country.
“The clearance of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] where fighting continues is not the responsibility of MAPA and it has never conducted such clearance,” the demining service noted. “However, when fighting comes to an end and internally displaced people return to their villages and homes to face the danger of explosive hazards left behind, they often and justifiably request their lands to be cleared.”
MAPA, which comprises 50 national and international partners, has operated in Afghanistan for the last 26 years and, along with its partners, has successfully delivered mine action services across Afghanistan including clearance of over 23,000 hazardous areas, resulting in a decline in the number of civilian causalities by almost 80%.
MAPA has maintained its humanitarian neutrality throughout its history, working with all Governments and operating to ensure the safety of Afghan civilians.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said previously that in 2014 the country lost the largest number of civilians over the past few years. According to UNAMA, in the period from January to November, 3188 civilians were killed and another 6429 were injured in Afghanistan — a 19-percent increase compared with 2013. According to the UN, the population’s casualties are caused mainly by military clashes and attacks with the use of improvised explosive devices.