Six million schoolchildren to receive landmine coaching

The government of Afghanistan and the UN Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (UNMACA) have launched an awareness campaign to educate more than six million schoolchildren countrywide about the risks of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), the Ministry of Education (MoE) and UN told IRIN on 14 November.

The country is replete with landmines and UXO, which kill and injure about 60 people, almost half of them children, every month, according to UNMACA.

On 10 November, 125 trainers from 34 Afghan provinces started a three-day course in Kabul, the capital, covering a new educational method designed to boost public awareness, particularly schoolchildren’s knowledge, about landmines and other risky unexploded devices.

“These 125 trainers will train teachers in their respective provinces across the country who will then share their lessons with other teachers and finally teachers will teach students in classrooms,” said Ahmad Jan Nawzadi, a UNMACA public information officer in Kabul.

Officials expect that by the end of 2008 all schoolchildren in the country will have basic awareness about the risks of landmines and UXO.

More than 17 million Afghans have been educated about landmines and UXO hazards in the past two decades, mine clearing agencies say.

However, children and returning refugees are considered particularly vulnerable to the risks.

“We plan to include landmine awareness as a temporary element of our national educational curriculum,” Siddiq Patman, deputy minister for the MoE, told IRIN.

“We want to make sure every child in Afghanistan at least knows what landmines are, where they can be found, what they look like and how they can be avoided,” Patman added.

Afghanistan has one of the highest landmine casualty figures in the world, according to mine clearance agencies, although the overall number of landmine victims has seen a marked reduction as the country makes steady progress towards its commitment for a landmine-free status by 2013.

About 70,000 Afghans have either been killed or disabled by landmines in the past two decades, UNMACA’s statistics show.

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