How has the mine problem evolved in the past 12 months?
The latest survey indicates that landmines and UXO affect some 2,400 communities, in 34 provinces. The number of casualties we record has remained stable at between 2 and 3 each day.
Are people paradoxically at greater risk because it is easier to move round the country?
That's one reason; another is that returnees – people who went away as refugees – are coming back, often to remote areas. They are not familiar with the situation or aware of the risks.
What are the main points of the ICRC's mine action programme?
In 1985 the ICRC began giving support to the Afghan Red Crescent's efforts in mine awareness. Then in 1998 ICRC began collecting data on mine and UXO incidents. In 2002 both parts were brought together.
The basic elements are collecting data on mine casualties and mine/UXO infestation, and carrying out awareness sessions for people at greatest risk, such as returnees and truck drivers.
How do people react when you talk to them about mines?
Naturally, they want to know what we can do to help their own specific situation; they want their fields cleared of mines. As ICRC does not do that, we pass on information about mined areas to organizations such as the Halo Trust, which deal with clearing.
What else can the ICRC do for mine victims?
We run six orthopaedic centres around the country, which help by making artificial limbs, and can provide jobs for the disabled. They also oversee the micro credit system [programme to help people start up small businesses – Ed.] .
What will the priorities be for the coming years?
To identify all affected communities, to mark the minefields, and to organize de-mining. Since 1998 ICRC has registered some 10,000 victims – we have to continue these programmes as a matter of urgency.
Naturally, the de-miners have their own priorities – residential areas, returnee villages, etc.
The Afghan government has committed itself to making the country mine-free by 2012…
Has any particular incident marked you?
There are so many… a family returned from Pakistan and began reconstructing their house. On the third day the father stepped on a mine and lost both legs. He's now disabled, the family has lost hope. There are cases like this every day… it's awful.