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Testing a mine safety leaflet

04-10-2004 News Release 04/114

The ICRC's mine-action team in Kabul has produced a new safety leaflet intended mainly for Afghans returning to the country from Iran and Pakistan.

Featuring many pictures so that it can be used by literate and illiterate people alike, the leaflet was recently field-tested in Diwan Bigi, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Kabul that is home to many returnee families.

 

"To me, the best one is that picture telling us not to walk off the road when we step off the back of the truck," commented 14-year-old Jafar.©ICRC 
 
Decades of war have left Afghanistan with a bitter legacy: the country is infested with landmines and other explosive munitions. Even the former front lines in and around the capital, Kabul, are still littered with mines and unexploded ordnance.
 
Diwan Bigi lies in one of the areas most devastated by conflict. It is a place of narrow, dusty lanes, high, mud-walled compounds and considerable poverty. When three ICRC staff members arrived there one recent morning, some 20 men and boys recently returned to Afghanistan crowded into Sheer Alam's bare front room to listen to them.
 
Some of them already knew about the risks posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, having received information at the Pakistan and Iranian border crossings. Others had no idea.
 
The ICRC team took the men step by step through the leaflet, asking them to describe each scenario and explain its message. " See there, " said one young man, a soldier, pointing to a picture of people beside a river. " See that long grass on the bank? Be careful there, it looks as if no one goes to that spot. It might be mined. Ah yes, " he continued pointing to another part of the picture. " Look, the women are filling their water containers further down stream in a place where many people are going. That place is safe. "
 
The group was split as to which of the leaflet’s messages was most useful. " I think the one about not taking a short cut that nobody else uses is very good, " said Sheer Alam. " To me, the best one is that picture telling us not to walk off the road when we step off the back of the truck, " commented 14-year-old Jafar. As he said this he pointed to a photo of a crowded bus passing a heavily mine-contaminated field.
 
All agreed that it would be a good idea to pass on the information to their wives and daughters, who remained hidden from view in another room throughout the meeting. It was also decided to send a female member of the mine-action team to talk with the women directly and hear their views.
 
Once finalized, the leaflet will be distributed, in conjunction with other agencies, when mine-action staff encounter returnees in the course of their work.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Jessica Barry, ICRC Kabul, tel. ++93 70 282 719 or ++873 761 24 22 60