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High profile campaigns have successfully highlighted the dangers of landmines, but data from Afghanistan show unexploded ordnance continues to harm a greater number of people, particularly children.
When researchers analysed 5471 incidents of individuals injured or killed by these devices between 2002 and 2006, they found that 2749 (50.3%) were caused by unexploded ordnance and 2314 (42.3%) by landmines. An unknown device caused the rest. The proportion of deaths and injuries caused by unexploded ordnance rose from 48.4% in 2002 to 58.8% in 2006 (P< 0.001). Almost half the deaths and injuries in this study were in children (2580, 47.2%), and of these 1687 (65%) were attributed to unexploded ordnance. Tampering accounted for an increasing proportion of injuries to children and adults, rising from 8.3% in 2002 to 25.6% by 2006 (P< 0.001). Most tampering incidents involved unexploded ordnance rather than landmines.
As the sensitivity of the data collection is not known the figures may be underestimates, say the authors. Both types of device continue to cause large numbers of injuries and deaths in Afghanistan. The increasing role of unexploded ordnance is particularly puzzling, because these kinds of devices are cheaper and easier to clear up than landmines.