Mine Detection Dog Program
Afghanistan’s mine and UXO (unexploded ordnance) problem is the consequence of more than 30 years of war. Between 2007 and 2012, MLI donated 28 MDDs to four local Afghan demining organizations (ATC, DAFA, OMAR, and MCPA). These MDDs searched 2,370 acres of land which was returned to the Afghan people for safe & productive use. In 2015, MLI retired or reassigned all of the dogs because Afghanistan was able to develop its own sustainable indigenous demining capacity. MLI’s partner organization, the Mine Detection Center (MDC) in Afghanistan, established a successful breeding & training program for MDDs and because of their excellent work, coupled with the landmine clearance success of the four Afghan NGOs using MLI-donated dogs, the mine contaminated land that was particularly suitable for MDD operations was substantially reduced, resulting in a surplus of dogs.
During 2015, MLI worked with the U.S. Department of State to repatriate 21 MDDs to the U.S. that were of retirement age, and reassign 15 additional MDDs to demining operations in other countries. MLI’s partner in Texas, Mission K9 Rescue, assisted in placing the heroic dogs in loving homes in the U.S. The 15 active MDDs were transferred to work with local demining organizations in Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were paired with local handlers, achieved certification, and resumed their lifesaving work.
MLI launched CHAMPS Afghanistan in partnership with Help the Afghan Children in 2008. Schools in the U.S. conducted video calls with schools in Afghanistan to promote goodwill and global citizenship, and to raise awareness and funds for young Afghan landmine survivors. Additionally, five of the dogs donated to Afghan demining organizations were sponsored by CHAMPS campaigns.
As a result of the CHAMPS program, an estimated 13,000 Afghans participated in landmine awareness meetings and received mine risk education (MRE) , and more than 250 landmine survivors have received prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, special walking canes, and vocational training. MRE plays a crucial role in education communities, and especially children, on the dangers and risks of landmines. Vocational training was provided in computer science and sewing, enabling survivors to re-enter society, find employment, or use their new skills to sell hand-sewn products in local markets.
Here are stories of the survivors MLI has reached through CHAMPS and our Survivors’ Assistance programs.
At the age of 10, Sonia suffered terrible injuries and lost her right leg when a a suicide bomber exploded right next to her school — no children died, but a number of them were injured from the explosion. Sonia not only lost her leg that day, she also lost all hope for her future.
Sonia’s family was unable to afford a prosthetic limb for her, so she was forced to drop out of school and suffered alone in her home for three years until she was found by MLI’s CHAMPS manager in Afghanistan. American CHAMPS students held bake sales and walkathons to raise funds for Sonia, enabling her to received a prosthetic leg and other rehabilitative care. She also enrolled in MLI’s vocational training sewing courses and is now able to help provide for her family by selling the clothing items she makes.
While visiting her grandparents’ home outside of Jalalabad, young Safa was outside gathering vegetables for lunch with her sister when she stepped on a landmine. In that one instant, Safa’s life changed forever.
Safa’s family could not afford the intensive rehabilitation or prosthetic limb that she needed, so Safa was forced to use a makeshift crutch. Unable to run around and play with her friends and feeling confused and scared by the entire experience, six-year old Safa was left without much of a reason to smile anymore. Luckily, MLI’s CHAMPS Afghanistan students in the Roshan High School, outside of Jalabad, learned of Safa’s tragedy and immediately began working to help her. Safa’s story was shared with MLI’s CHAMPS students at Grace Christian School in Connecticut and these dedicated young people began raising money to provide her with a new leg and the rehabilitative treatment she so desperately needed. Within a few short months, the Connecticut children had raised enough money to provide her with a new custom-fitted prosthetic leg and the students at Roshan High School began the difficult task of transporting her multiple times a week to and from the Red Cross medical center, where her new leg was fitted and she received the medical care she needed.
The children and faculty at Grace Christian school went on to raise funds for the next four years, providing Safa with new prosthetic legs as she grew. What is truly remarkable about this story, however, is that prior to the CHAMPS youth finding Safa, the patriarch in her family had never allowed the girls in the family to attend school. But he was so moved by the efforts of the children in Connecticut – who cared so much for Safa, a girl they would never meet – that he allowed Safa and her sisters to attend school for the first time! Thanks to the combined efforts of these amazing youth, Safa now has a new leg, is able to attend school…and finally has hope and a reason to smile!