Darwaz is one of the most remote Districts of Badakshan Provinvce, in north east Afghanistan. Forming the northernmost point of Afghanistan, it is surrounded on its western, eastern and northern flanks by Tajikistan from across the border formed by the Panj and Amu Darya (Oxus) rivers. From within Afghanistan, Darwaz can be approached only on foot. Darwaz is impossible to reach by vehicle from the south in Badahkshan Province, only by serviceable roads on the Tajik side of the border from across three bridges which span the river.
Prior to 2010, no humanitarian demining had been initiated in Darwaz and other international funded humanitarian or development aid was very limited if at all. The complete infrastructure which includes medical services, education, social and commercial development is very poor and non-existent in nearly the whole region.
In early 2010 FSD, through its long standing mine action programme in Tajikistan, found that it had a unique advantage for mounting operations in Darwaz. Therefore in coordination with the Mine Action Coordination Centre Afghanistan FSD sought and received funds from U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Political – Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in order to commence operations. By August 2010, PM/WRA granted FSD a contract for 12 months to conduct cross-border mine action operations in Afghanistan and Tajikistan along their contiguous border, and in the case of Darwaz, deeper into the district.
From the beginning of FSDs demining and survey activities in Darwaz it became apparent that the landmine situation had a significant and direct impact on communities with mines found within a short distance of villages, blocking access to fresh water, hampering economic development by blocking key routes and denying access to agricultural land and grazing pastures.
In August 2011 FSD Afghanistan decided to initiate a small but effective survey component to investigate the claims of landmines and other explosive remnants of war contamination in all 5 sub-districts in Darwaz. The survey component confirmed the contamination exists which directly affects the communities nearby. In September 2011 a project extension with continued funding from PM-WRA saw 2 survey teams being established.
To date a total of 38 Hazardous Areas totaling over 4 million square meters in size have been surveyed by FSD with 7 suspected areas remaining. By the end of May 2012 the FSD teams have cleared a total of 70,467 square metres of land, removing and destroying 70 items of unexploded ordnance and 433 landmines.
FSD’s progress and success has led to other organizations planning to implement development projects in the area during 2012. They include Mission East with a cross border water supply project and GiZ with a road and transport infrastructure project.
This project also provided support to the local medical clinic in the District’s capital Nusai through the provision of 3 specialist doctors, 2 x ambulances, equipment and regular supply of medicines. This vital supply will continue to augment the clinic’s ability to serve the local population who suffer a high rate of infant mortality and an unnecessary death toll due to poor facilities. According to information from the Head of the Nusai Clinic and the District Governor, the clinic treated 30% more patients after having received vital support from the US DoS PMWRA through FSD.
Due to the support from FSD, local authorities are in discussion with the Afghan Ministry of Health to raise the status of the clinic because the clinic’s service area has expanded beyond the borders of Nusai District.