For Afghan Children, Unexploded Mines From the 1970s Pose a Daily Threat

Through LifeBahn Lens

In the aftermath of decades of conflict, the children of Afghanistan continue to face a deadly legacy: unexploded mines and ordnance. Nearly 900 people were killed or wounded by leftover munitions from January 2023 to April 2024, with most of the victims being children, according to United Nations figures.




A Persistent Danger

In Ghazni province, the danger became starkly evident when an anti-tank mine from the Soviet invasion era was detonated by deminers from the British organization Halo Trust. The explosion created a crater, and children quickly gathered around it. Despite the Taliban's efforts to clear the country of these deadly remnants, the risk remains high.

Afghans have regained access to fields, schools, and roads since the Taliban's rise to power in 2021, but this new freedom of movement brings the peril of unexploded mines. The anti-tank mine near Qach Qala village, for example, had been buried since the Soviet invasion from 1979 to 1989.

Efforts and Challenges in Demining

The Taliban government has shown support for demining initiatives. "The Taliban government is very supportive of demining in this country and wants to conduct clearance as far as it possibly can," said Nick Pond, head of the Mine Action Section of UNAMA, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.

Despite these efforts, the extent of mine contamination is challenging to predict. Demining operations, which began as early as 1988, have struggled against the ongoing re-infestation of mines due to continuous conflicts. The Halo Trust and other organizations face significant funding shortages, which limit their capacity to clear mines efficiently.

The Human Toll

The human cost of unexploded ordnance is tragically high. Children account for 82% of the casualties, often encountering these deadly devices while playing. In the village of Nokordak, two boys, Javid and Sakhi Dad, both 14, were killed when they accidentally triggered unexploded ordnance. In another incident, 11-year-old Taha died, and his brother Sayed was injured while tending their sheep.

These heartbreaking stories are all too common. Siraj Ahmad, the father of Taha and Sayed, expressed his fears: "Tomorrow, someone else's son could be killed or handicapped for the rest of their life."

The Struggle for Safety

Efforts to educate children about the dangers of unexploded ordnance are ongoing. At a small school in the Deh Qazi hamlet, headmaster Mohammad Hassan spoke of the risks: "Even the schoolyard is dangerous for the children because it is not cleared of mines."

Classrooms now include lessons aimed at preventing accidents, with walls covered in charts depicting various types of mines and ordnance. However, the colorful and sometimes deceptive appearance of these devices often attracts children. Soviet-era butterfly mines and other munitions can look like toys or valuable objects, leading children to handle them, often with fatal consequences.

The Future of Demining

The demining workforce in Afghanistan has significantly decreased from 15,500 in 2011 to just 3,000 today. International conflicts and reduced funding following the Taliban takeover have diverted resources away from Afghanistan. Despite these challenges, organizations like the Halo Trust continue their perilous work.

"Sometimes when I go defusing mines, I call my family and tell them I love them, just in case anything happens," said Zabto Mayar, a Halo explosive ordnance disposal officer.


The ongoing threat of unexploded mines in Afghanistan underscores the urgent need for sustained international support and collaboration. 

While competition is a good way to succeed for a FEW,
Collaboration is a BETTER way to succeed for MANY.

The safety and future of Afghan children depend on the collective efforts to rid their land of these deadly remnants of war. Only through dedicated cooperation can we hope to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and pave the way for a safer, more prosperous future for Afghanistan.