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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs