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Afghanistan: the deadly legacy: some figures

14-02-1996 News Release 96/6

Afghanistan is one of the most mine-infested countries in the world. All factions and parties involved in the Afghan conflict during the past 15 years have resorted to mine warfare. The ICRC has compiled comparative statistics showing the magnitude of the landmine problem over the last five years. Medical reports reveal that 1,606 (close to 20 %) out of a total of 9,050 war-wounded patients admitted to various medical facilities in 1995 were mine victims. These figures are incomplete because they do not include data from all Afghanistan's hospitals. Moreover, many incidents are unreported, so the total number of mine victims -- dead and wounded -- in the country must be estimated at about 4,000 for 1995 alone. According to Dr Chris Giannou of the ICRC, " there were so many casualties in the Afghan cities that came under intensive bombing and shelling that the proportion of landmine injuries is remarkably high in relation to the overall number of war wounds " .

The ICRC's " Evolution of mine warfare " tables show two peaks of mine casualties: one in 1992 and another in 1995. The first corresponds to a large influx of returning refugees, many of whom unknowingly entered mined areas in their home regions. The second peak represents an upsurge in fighting between the Kabul government and the Taliban movement. This involved the widespread use of mines in the city of Kabul itself, resulting in heavy casualties among both combatants and civilians.

Reports from ICRC field nurses indicate that during fighting around the western city of Herat in early 1995, hundreds of people were wounded and " in about half the cases, the wounds were caused by mines " .

It is statistics such as these that prompted the ICRC to launch the current worldwide campaign for a total ban on landmines.