Post link 18 September 2015, 11:01
Mozambique was once riddled with tens of thousands of land mines. Now, it has none.
For those who cringe at reading another negative news story about Sub-Saharan Africa, here's some great news.

By Sudarsan Raghavan September 17 2015

http://mastakongo.com/english/images/Articles_photo/September2015/african-rat-help-detect-land-mines.jpg
While rats and dogs can be used to detect the scent of explosives in land mines, it is ultimately people who must deal with destroying them. Most mines are detonated using other explosives.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, REPORTAGE BY GETTY IMAGES


Mozambique, once a country riddled with land mines, is now mine-free.

That's what the Mozambican government will announce Thursday morning in the seaside capital, Maputo. A 15-year-long civil war, starting in the late 1970s, claimed an estimated 1 million lives, and displaced roughly 5 million people.

The war ended in 1992, but its deadly hand lingered on. An estimated 213,000 land mines were planted by government forces and rebels. Throughout the 1990s and until recently, hundreds of people were injured or killed by the land mines. Millions more were impacted economically, as land mines made it difficult to farm, graze livestock, trade goods, and even to travel to find work.

This month, Mozambique's last mine was destroyed at the Pungue Bridge, which carries a railway line over the Pungue River, in the province of Sofala in central Mozambique.

"What it means to the country is that it gives the country a great level of confidence, to now really move forward and flourish, and move on from the civil war and the war for independence," said Calvin Ruysen, southern Africa desk officer for the HALO Trust, a humanitarian land mine clearance agency that has played a significant role in the country's removal operations. "Mozambique can now show to the rest of the world it has achieved a huge milestone."

http://mastakongo.com/english/images/Articles_photo/September2015/woman-clearing-land-mines-in-mozambique.jpg
Flora Armando Chipossa Tenho uses a metal detector to search for land mines in southern Mozambique. Government forces placed mines around major infrastructure like these power lines to protect them from sabotage during the country’s long civil war.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, REPORTAGE BY GETTY IMAGES


Other countries, such as Rwanda, Albania and Greece have declared themselves mine-free, but none of them had nearly as many mines as Mozambique. It is the first country among those considered the world's worst cases of landm ine prevalence to now be eradicated of mines, according to the Halo Trust.

Other nations that remain plagued with an abundance of land mines include Cambodia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Angola. Aid workers hope Mozambique will serve as an example to these and other countries who have long struggled with land mines.

http://mastakongo.com/english/images/Articles_photo/September2015/mozambique.jpg"All these countries have similar situations," said Ruysen. "They need to see it is possible."

Weeding out land mines from Mozambique took more than two decades. The Halo Trust and other land mine removal agencies began working in the early 1990s, largely funded by the United States and other western nations. Some deployed women to clear the mines. Others used unique ways such as training giant rats to detect buried mines.

In the case of the Halo Trust, more than 1,600 Mozambican men and women were employed over the past two decades. They used both manual and mechanical methods to remove the land mines, and by this year had made more than 17 million square meters of land safe. The Halo Trust says it has cleared more than 171,000 landmines -- about 80 percent of the total number destroyed.

According to some estimates, there were 600 mine and unexploded ordnance related accidents per year in the early 1990s.

In 2013 there were 11 reported.

"We are glad to put ourselves out of business," said Cindy McCain, the chairperson of the board for the Halo Trust U.S., and the wife of former US presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. "The government is upbeat. The people are upbeat. They are just like us. They want a safe country for their children. This gives them the ability to step outside their front door without fear of having their legs blown off."

http://mastakongo.com/english/images/Articles_photo/September2015/woman-clearing-land-mines-in-mozambique-margarida-luis-sitoe.jpgMargarida Luis Sitoe is one of around 200 female de-miners working in Mozambique. Once one of the world’s most heavily mined countries, Mozambique is expected to be declared mine-free by the end of the year.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF APOPO


With landmines gone, Mozambique can focus on its economy. Rural communities are cultivating crops and grazing livestock again without fear. Over the years, the mine clearance has helped in allowing the country to rebuild and develop its infrastructure, build roads and railways to access vital minerals such as coal and gas and enhance tourism. With the country safer, international investors have poured in.

Today, the country's economy has grown an average of 7 percent a year, among the highest rates in the world. And with greater economic prosperity, aid workers say the likelihood of returning to civil war has decreased. "It helps definitely to build the peace dividend," said Ruysen.


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