The newly-appointed United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Programme Unit Chief, Paul Heslop, visited the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA) for four days in November to reaffirm UNMAS’ commitment to the project and witness activities first-hand.
“It is incredibly satisfying,” Paul said. “The place I am standing now was mined 10 years ago. Now we see houses built, roads opened and children playing.”
“After the fall of Taliban, refugees and IDPs rushed back to reclaim their land, to reclaim their homes,” he continued. “As they entered west Kabul, there were 10 plus casualties in a day in where I am standing now.”
During his visit, he spoke to some of the key stakeholders in the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) and attended a hand-over ceremony in Shahrake Aruzo, a recently cleared area in the Darlaman district just outside of Kabul. Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), MACCA’s Implementing Partner for the project, led Paul around the former minefield, located inside a village and punctuated by clusters of dun-colored houses.
The site, where mines and other explosives were laid during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the civil war, had just gone through great changes – and more change was underway.
In what had been, until recent weeks, a minefield, a group of boys played a lively game of football. In the distance, workmen were laying down a foundation for a house.
Paul had first come to Afghanistan in 1997 as a deminer. He continued working in mine action, moving into management, first at HALO Trust, and then at the United Nations. In his current position at UNMAS, he oversees the agency’s global programming, including the UNMAS supported MACCA, which is responsible for the coordination of all mine action activities in Afghanistan.
Surveying the work done, Paul said: “Afghanistan is a success story. Millions of items have been cleared of this country. So potentially a million casualties have been saved by effective, targeted, well planned mine action”.
For more information on the work of the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA): http://bit.ly/wgd9SB
Original article taken from UNMAS Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/zoTUTe
Photo: MACCA / UNMAS – with Paul Heslop in Kabul, Afghanistan.