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The Afghan Student Organization's Fundraising Event: Landmine
Remarks by the Ambassador Said T. Jawad


George Washington University
04/24/2004

I would like to thank the Afghan Student Organization at George Washington University, and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines for organizing this fundraising, and every one of you for contributing to make Afghanistan and the world a safer place.

Today there are tens of millions of landmines contaminating 70 countries around the world. The overwhelming majority of those mines are killing poor people in the developing countries. Where the violence is common, the governments do not have the resources to clean up the mess, and the people are not properly educated to avoid mines.

No place is worse than Afghanistan. Afghanistan is littered with perhaps nine million landmines. During the Soviet invasion, up to 30 million landmines and the so called butterfly mines were scattered throughout Afghanistan. This means one mine for each Afghan citizen. Today this number is reduced to a mine for each Afghan family. You can find any type of mine ever made in Afghanistan. Covering an area of 780 square kilometers, 32 out of 34 provinces of Afghanistan are contaminated with landmines. So far, we have successfully cleared 1/3 of the minefields.

Landmines are killing the most innocent civilians, mostly kids. Once laid, the landmine never recognizes peace. The war ends, but the landmines continue to kill. Sometimes they literally come to a village to kill people. In June of 2003 in the province of Baghlan, heavy flooding scattered landmines that were previously buried- into populated areas. Every month about 200 people are falling victim to landmines and other unexploded ordinances. Half of the victims of landmine victims die from their injuries before reaching a medical facility.

The Afghan Government is a champion of efforts to ban landmines regionally and globally. We are fully committed to make Afghanistan landmine free. In September 2002, we joined several other nations in signing the Mine Ban Treaty. This past March, Afghanistan hosted the regional meeting of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

Today peace has returned to Afghanistan, and the reconstruction has started. Last year we reached a 30% economic growth rate according to the IMF. 3.5 million refugees have returned to their homeland. So far 3.4 million returnees received mine risk education.

We are grateful to our friends and supporters at the international community for the assistance provided to us to clear Afghanistan from mines. Your contribution and efforts help us return our land and our country back to its people so they can rebuild it.

Let’s hope and work for a day that not only Afghanistan, but our beautiful planet can be landmine free. Again, I appreciate the efforts of the Afghan students. You all are the hope and the future of our country.

Thank you.