News

    Work Intensifies to Clear Angola's Landmines

    The world recently marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris. The late princess was a leading advocate against landmines, which kill and maim thousands of people every year.  Shortly before her death, she visited Angola - one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.  Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Huambo, central Angola, that five years after the end of the Angolan civil war, efforts are intensifying to clear the mines which hinder reconstruction and threaten displaced people returning home.

    It is midday in a field 30 kilometers outside Huambo.  Carlos Silva, wearing a helmet, face shield and padded clothing, is crouched over a patch of scrub grass with a metal detector.

    Silva has located an anti-personnel mine, one of more than a million placed during Angola's 27-year civil war.

    He is one of a team of 70 de-miners of the Halo Trust working in this minefield.  It contains hundreds of mines laid two decades ago to protect a satellite station.

    Silva digs carefully to expose the side of the mine. If he touches the detonator on top, the mine could explode.  It is slow work.  A de-miner working under reasonable conditions can cover only a few dozen square meters a day.

    Since 1994, Halo Trust has destroyed more than 30,000 landmines, several hundred bombs and hundreds of thousands of weapons and ammunition rounds.

    Mines were laid along roads and railways and around many communities in Angola.  Five years after a peace accord ended the war, only a fraction of the mines have been removed.

    A few kilometers away, another team is clearing mines from around electrical power poles.

    In these situations, de-miners use armored earth movers to clear large numbers of mines quickly. This front loader scoops up piles of contaminated earth and spread it in a thin layer on the ground so de-miners with metal detectors and rakes can check it for mines.

    Angola's civil war displaced nearly two million people and affected one-third of its estimated 12 million population.  With peace, many people are returning to their villages and their fields.  Increasingly they are coming into contact with these deadly relics of the war.

    The project manager for Halo Trust in Huambo, Southern Craib (sic) says, because of peace de-mining, priorities are constantly changing.

    "There has been an expansion, in terms of population, returning refugees, renewed economic growth," Craib said. "And, that is putting added pressure on land.  Tasks [minefields] that were previously considered low priority are now becoming high priority and, if they are simply not cleared now, there will be accidents in the future."

    The minefield around the satellite station became a priority after two people from a re-populated village nearby stepped on mines. More than one thousand mines have already been destroyed here.  This day, five more are to be eliminated.

    Site supervisor Antonio Alipio has been working with Halo Trust for nine years.  He is one of 1100 Angolans and seven foreigners working for Halo Trust.

    Alipio unlocks a box containing explosives that will be used to destroy the mines. Carefully he measures fuses about one meter long and tapes them to the charges.

    Alipio sets a charge beside each of the five mines and lights the fuses.  He has three minutes to move a safe distance away.

    He counts the explosions and, afterwards, inspects the fragments to make sure the mines have been completely destroyed.

    Alipio has destroyed thousands of mines in his time.  He is proud of his work.

    He says, with more than 1,000 mines, one can imagine many people would have stepped on them.  Many would have died and many would be amputees.  But, he says because of his work, many lives have been saved.

    Craib says, at this rate, it will take four to seven years to clear the high and medium-priority areas in Angola.  Low priority areas in remote, uninhabited regions will have to wait.

    "There is an achievable end state that can be reached," Craib said. "It simply needs continued support of donor governments and the international community and the population of the richer nations in the world to achieve [solve] a problem that is experienced largely only in the third and developing world."

    The Angolan government is anxious to clear the minefields, because they hinder economic recovery and the preparations for national elections next year.  But, for the de-miners, the primary goal remains to prevent any further loss of life, as Angolans struggle to recover from the devastation of war.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora