NATO's Bombs Killing Mostly Afghan Children

By R. Siva Kumar - 30 Jan '15 18:15PM

NATO troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan, but have not taken the disaster completely with them. Reportedly, the bombs they dropped are killing Afghans at the rate of more than one a day---most of whom are children.

The air forces dropped 20,000 tons of bombs on the country since 2001. However, even after being thrown on the ground, 10 percent of the missiles do not "detonate" after reaching the country and a lot of them "malfunction", according to

Many firing ranges have been put up beside dry riverbeds, fields and valleys, and are currently full of "unexploded shells and undetonated ammunition".

The province that has been impacted the most is Helmand. The number of shells and bombs here are spread out in 91 minefields, over an area of 63.8 square kilometers. In 2014, the UN-backed Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (Macca) found that there were 369 casualties, which included 89 civilians who were claimed by the legacy of bombs. At a few places, even de-mining sappers were overcome by insurgents.

The bombs have claimed more children than can be imagined. According to Macca, about 75 percent of victims from unexploded ordinance (UXO) are children. In 2014, a 10-year-old boy and his 8-year-old sister were blasted by bombs they had picked up while collecting firewood near their homes, while two of their brothers were injured. In fact, Afghan children are more vulnerable than adults, as they tend to put their hands into fundamental tasks such as herding and collecting scrap metal, that are open to bombing.

Much of the fighting has in fact happened near homes. US and UK diplomats concur that international law does not ask the invading countries to clear battlefields, but the director of Macca, Mohammad Sediq Rashid, affirms that it doesn't absolve NATO of responsibility. "It is a moral responsibility. Military intervention is the last resort, and it's intended to protect people and stabilize the country," Rashid told The Guardian.

While some cooperation between NATO armies and mine clearing agencies have been reported, many have complained that the US forces do not give information about the UXO debris.

"We ask for information about battlefields that may have UXO, but we have received coordinates for only 300 locations," said Rashid. "It's not enough."

The accidents shot up to a dangerous level in 2013, which cleared the way for some critical media reports. Western governments thus have begun to cooperate further. Still, many areas of the country are still locked in conflict, and the deadline for clearing all the firing ranges by 2015 may be delayed.

Hence by the end of last year, 12 de-mining sappers in Helmand were killed, which took up the annual toll to 34 Macca personnel.

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