KABUL -- At a rehabilitation centre in Afghanistan, Imran Gul clasped two parallel bars, cautiously easing his weight onto his new leg.
The 25-year-old nomad had been driving a tractor on hilly farmland when a land mine exploded, making him the latest victim of a scourge that has worsened in recent years as fighting intensifies between the government and the Taliban.
"I did not hear the sound of the bomb," Gul told AFP as he tried out his prosthetic limb.
"I touched my leg and saw there was no leg, and there were pieces of shrapnel in my eyes. My hands were soaked in blood," he added.
The blast in Ghazni Province also took two of Gul's fingers.
Casualties from land mines and "explosive remnants of war" have soared fivefold between 2012 and 2017, the last year full data were available, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).
Casualties have increased as a result of the intensifying fight between the Afghan government and the Taliban, especially since 2014.
Battlefields have been left strewn with land mines, unexploded mortars, rockets and homemade bombs -- many of them picked up by curious children.
"We are struggling to handle significant increases in the number of minefields in Afghanistan," said Patrick Fruchet, the UNMAS programme manager in Kabul.
The Afghan government has signed an international anti-land-mine treaty, but the Taliban and other militants are not bound by such rules.
"In 2012, we were down to about 36 casualties (killed and wounded) per month in Afghanistan, which is still enormous," Fruchet said.
But those numbers have jumped. In 2017, more than 150 casualties a month occurred.
In addition to the new explosive detritus, Afghanistan is still grappling with the legacy of mines from the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s and from the civil war in the 1990s.
Lack of funds
A lack of funds means the country will probably miss the UN goal of being mine free by 2023, Mohammad Jamshidi, UNMAS deputy programme manager, told AFP.
The "deadline seems to be difficult to achieve because of all these new contaminations and the lack of sufficient funding for the mine action," he said.
In an effort to prevent further tragedies, various organisations hold information sessions to warn civilians, including children.
Many Afghans -- particularly returning former refugees -- have no idea what land mines and other explosives even look like, said Hashmatullah Yadgari, who works for the Danish Refugee Council.
Ordinary Afghans "do not have any information about it", Yadgari said.
In a tent inside a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, a family recently viewed the various types of explosive devices it may encounter.
"We had no knowledge or awareness of the land mines," said Sakina Habibi, a mother of three who had just returned to Afghanistan after almost 30 years in Pakistan and Iran.
Many survivors of blasts go to one of seven orthopaedic rehabilitation hospitals funded by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
'Lucky to be alive'
At the same rehab centre where Gul, the nomad who lost a leg, was being treated, other patients tried out their new prosthetics.
Abdul, an Afghan mine clearer who gave only his first name, stood unsupported for the first time since being fitted with two legs.
He was disarming mines hidden in a house recaptured from the Taliban five months ago when the blast happened.
"I deactivated five pressure mines. The sixth was designed to explode when exposed to light. When I moved my lamp closer -- boom," Abdul said.
"I did my job; I prevented people from being killed by these mines. Even though I lost my legs, I'm lucky to still be alive," he added.
The resilient father of two wants to keep his job, "to again save lives", he said, mimicking holding a mine detector in one hand and a walking stick in the other.
Of the 12,000 new patients received annually by the ICRC, between 1,500 and 2,000 are casualties of war, four-fifths of whom are wounded by land mines, said Najmudin Helal, director of the Kabul centre.
Aside from physical rehab, the centre works with patients to help them find a new place in society. About half of the 300 staff at the Kabul hospital are disabled.
"They learn easily, and they can teach the new disabled easily. It's a hope [for new patients] to see that life carries on," Helal said.