Saving lives and limbs with behavioural change

Client: unmas afghanistan | Pillar: resilience

Thematic Areas: Prevention of Violence, Health

Services Provided: Strategy Development



Afghanistan is one of the most mined countries in the world and 640,000 land mines have been dispersed since 1979.

Over 31,000 casualties have been recorded between 1979 and 2018. In 2018 alone, 1,415 Afghan casualties were recorded. Children are also frequent victims and make up 80 per cent of casualties.

Many Afghans have low awareness of explosive hazards, engage in reckless behaviours that put them at risk, or are pressured by economic circumstances to intentionally engage in unsafe behaviours. 88 per cent of survivors were not aware of the dangers of explosive hazards before their accident and 90 per cent had not participated in a Risk Education (RE) session before their accident.

RE has remained largely the same over the last two decades in Afghanistan. Despite being rolled out to over six million Afghans, it has largely failed to address the different social and behavioural drivers behind why individuals engage in unsafe behaviours.


Our social and behavioral insight

  • A sense of fatalism can be deeply engrained in parts of Afghanistan and precludes a sense of personal agency when it comes to taking precautions against explosive hazards

  • Current risk education materials are not aligned with social and behavioural change (SBC) principles. Materials are too technical and focus on the danger of explosive hazards rather than engaging Afghans in an emotional, humane and relatable way

  • Children, particularly adolescents, want to be part of a group and will mimic dangerous behaviours practiced by their peers rather than refuse and be considered an outsider

  • Economic imperatives and lack of good, safe job options requires Afghans to take risks such as opting for shorter travel time through unsafe areas, or collecting scrap metal that may contain explosive hazards

  • Afghans don’t believe they could actually be involved in an accident


Strategic approach

  • Engage Afghans in a humane, emotional and relatable way

  • Use simplified messages that resonate with and are relevant for audiences

  • Utilise the mass media space to reach audiences

  • Create a common brand for RE activities to build brand trust, affinity and amplify effects

  • Enhance community-based and in-person approaches by revamping RE materials and reducing risk of poor pedagogy

  • Generate a public discourse, through public relations (PR) efforts, to put this issue higher on the agenda

  • Materials and messages which are tailored to specific target audience groups

  • Use time and repetition to expose audiences to message in order to build momentum, trust, learning and eventual behavioural change

  • Further foster time and repetition with a multi-media approach to build salience

  • Engage media and other trusted platforms to give prominence, importance and urgency to the message

  • Work with opinion leaders to accelerate the diffusion of new attitudes in society

  • Use human-interest stories to make the message and communication materials feel relevant to the lives of the target audience


Pilot Approach

MAGENTA developed a SBC Communications Strategy to suggest a new direction for RE in Afghanistan, which included a plan to pilot the new approach. The pilot has four stages:

  • Step 1: New RE material development and testing

  • Step 2: Planning for the Pilot in two communities and training of implementing partners

  • Step 3: Three-month pilot campaign

  • Step 4: Integration of learnings from pilot into RE Strategy before national roll-out