UN demining official warns of budget gap if no new donors come

After benefiting from a surge in funding following the fall of the Taliban at the end of 2001 and consequently clearing over half the minefields in Afghanistan, the United Nations Mine Action Programme for the country (MAPA) is currently projecting a funding shortfall in 2006, one of its officials said today. “If no new donor commitments are made, we will be forced to reduce the number of demining teams employed in the field,” John Flanagan, Deputy Director of the United Nations Mine Action service, said at a press conference in Kabul.Mr. Flanagan said that the shortfall would come at a critical time for demining in the country, since responsibility for the programme is being shifted to a mine action agency being created within the national Government. MAPA has already cleared more than 1 billion square metres of land since 1990. Around a further 716 million square metres of land remain to be cleared, according to estimates. Almost 329,000 anti-personnel mines, more than 18,000 anti-tank mines and nearly 7 million items of unexploded ordnance have been destroyed, Mr. Flanagan said. In addition, a nationwide survey of contaminated land in Afghanistan has been completed, and the number of highly-impacted communities has been cut by almost half since the initial data was collected through a combination of clearance, marking and mine risk education.“We hope that our donors will allow us to hand over a mine action programme that has enough sufficient financial resources to meet its many important targets in the future and one of those is an Afghanistan free of the threat of mines by 2013,” Mr. Flanagan concluded. read more