According to a BBC report published this week, there is a village in Afghanistan that is essentially built out of unexploded bombs, left behind from over 30 years of constant invasions from both the Soviet Union and NATO. Villagers have used many of the bombs as infrastructure for buildings and even bridges.
While the situation has been like this for years, a recent de-mining effort is underway to remove the weapons and replace them with more suitable infrastructure. Several recent explosions have killed multiple people, which caused local villagers and Afghanistan’s government to make the clean-up a priority.
It is estimated that roughly 400 Russian-made BM-21 rockets are being used to hold up over 40 houses.
Mohammad Zarif, a shepherd from Qazi Abad village, said that people started using the devices as building materials because there was nothing else available. Zarif also said that he was injured in an explosion while collecting the bombs.
“I was tending cattle then, and used to collect the rockets. One day, a rocket exploded, and I lost one of my eyes.”
Many of the villagers are living in houses that were built out of these materials when they were children, over 20 years ago. They lived in these houses their whole lives knowing that there was some risk of explosion, but it became the norm and wasn’t questioned. All of that changed, though, when the devices began exploding and injuring people.
According to 2017 data from the U.N., 475 people have been injured, and 164 have been killed in accidental explosions in Afghanistan. The vast majority of those deaths, at least 81%, were children.
According to HALO Trust, an international humanitarian mine clearance organization, an estimated 640,000 landmines are still scattered throughout the country, waiting to explode. Workers are now removing the missiles by hand, with protective gear, and moving them to a secluded area near the border where they are then destroyed. The de-miners working in the area have said that if one of the larger bombs were to explode, it could take out an entire village.
Unfortunately, unexploded munitions are a problem all over the world. Some countries, such as Egypt, Iran, and Angola have tens of millions of unexploded devices, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Egypt has a staggering 23 million explosives, making it the most mined country on the planet. WHO estimates that there are at least 110 million unexploded bombs spread throughout the world that have yet to be found.