JUBA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The UN mine agency said it has destroyed one million landmines and explosives since it started operations in South Sudan some 14 years ago.
Speaking at a ceremony for disposal of the 1,000,000th explosive item on Wednesday, Richard Boulter, program manager of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in South Sudan, said the destroyed items were recovered from an area stretching about one billion square meters of land previously contaminated with explosive hazards.
Boulter added that the UN is seeking to secure another 39 square kilometers of land still contaminated by explosives in the next five years.
"Together we have cleared 1.25 billion square meters of land, but the number that matter now is that one which remains."
"And our estimate at the moment is approximately 39 square kilometers (areas still contaminated with explosives), comprised of 210 mines fields, 124 cluster strikes and 35 battles areas," Boulter said.
"These areas are known and have got a plan to clear them and it's my view that all of the known tasks will be cleared within the next three to five years. Nine people have been hurt this month alone and the problem goes on," he added.
According to UNMAS, decades of conflict in South Sudan have plagued nearly 90 million square meters of land with explosive hazards.
The agency said existence of explosive hazards prevents the delivery of humanitarian aid and hinder socioeconomic development in the world's youngest nation.
It added that about 5,000 people have either been killed or injured by remnants of war since 2004.
Barrach Jurkuch, chairman of the National Mine Action Authority, hailed the significant progress made in clearing explosives in South Sudan, adding that a mine-free land could boost agriculture and ease delivery of relief assistance.
"We (are) grateful to the international community for job well done and support to South Sudanese. We are going to ask for five years extension to our work on landmines so that we declare South Sudan a mine-free country," Jurkuch said.
"We hope the NGOs and the companies will continue with this work so that we clear the landmines in the contaminated areas of South Sudan and we have the land free," he added.