Caring for the people and the environment by clearing land mines

 Landmines
Injured by land mine while being carried on her mother's back (Phot:UNDP Moz.)

I was passing through a field in my village after the war when I stepped on a landmine. I had my little girl on my back. She lost her foot. I lost my leg. Everything changed in that moment; I was 29 and had to rebuild my life again. My husband abandoned me with our six children. He just left, like that without even saying goodbye; I think he thought I would become a burden   to him. That is actually what many people think. In the beginning my family also thought the same. It took some time before they started supporting. It hurts when I think back to that time. But I survived, I had to do it all by myself. It is still hard and sometimes at night when I lie down, I think back of the accident, recalls Otilia Raimundo, sitting beside her daughter Tina Feliz.

Otilia and Tina were among 300 landmine survivors included in needs assessment conducted in early 2013 by Handicap International in close partnership with National Victim Assistance Network, with support of the UNDP, Ausaid and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Landmines and other unexploded artillery present a considerable barrier to national development and an environmental hazard. The Mozambique Action Plan to Reduce Poverty for 2010-2014 (PARP) highlights mine action as one of eight key cross-cutting issues that affect development potential.

Highlights

  • I was passing through a field in my village after the war when I stepped on a landmine. I had my little girl on my back. She lost her foot. I lost my leg.
  • Almost 20 million square meters, the equivalent of 2,375 football fields, have been cleared of land mines and made available for social and economic activities.
  • “my daughter is now 18, she faced many difficulties because of her disability. In spite of the challenges she faces, she dreams of a better future. I pray every day that no other person is injured or killed by a land mine”.

It is estimated that 377 areas are still believed to have undiscovered land mines remain in Mozambique.  These areas total 16 million square meters of land that lie in the provinces of Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Tete, Manica, Sofala, Inhambane, Gaza, and Maputo.

To address this impediment to poverty reduction, the Government of Mozambique acting through the National Demining Institute (IND), the UN, and other international and national mine action operators have implemented a comprehensive National Mine Action Plan for 2008-2014. This national plan focuses on the six remaining provinces in the southern and central regions of the country that primarily support agricultural productivity and development activities.

Since 2008, the National Mine Action Plan has successfully rid 728 areas of anti-personnel land mines. Almost 20 million square meters, the equivalent of 2,375 football fields, have been cleared of land mines and made available for social and economic activities.  However, a large amount of land still remains to be demined, and partners willing to collaborate with Mozambique are crucial to accomplish this work.

In rural Mozambique, land mines are still a real cause of death and mutilation.  Between 2008 and 2011 land mines caused 23 accidents, killing 23 people and injuring an additional 35.

Priority has been given to clearing 2.93 million square meters along the border of Zimbabwe where the presence of landmines has hindered proper demarcation of the border. Likewise, preference is also given to mines remnant in some key national development infrastructures for example  near the Cahora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi River and along the high voltage power lines through the provinces of Maputo, Manica and Sofala.  The technical training of national bodies such as the army and police is necessary to successfully complete this demining work.

The Resident Coordinator of the UN System and UNDP Resident Representative Jennifer Topping believes that Mozambique can become the first of the five most heavily-mined countries to completely eradicate landmines and comply with the ban of anti-personnel mines as articulated by the Ottawa Convention.  To achieve this goal, Mozambique needs not only financial support from partners willing to collaborate, but also increased efforts in the implementation of good practices and innovative approaches to demining.

Clearing land mines is restoring the land for development and creating a safe environment so that Mozambican children, women and men can live free from the painful experience that Oilia and her daughter and thousands of other people unfortunately experienced. As Otilia said, “my daughter is now 18, she faced many difficulties because of her disability. In spite of the challenges she faces, she dreams of a better future. I pray every day that no other person is injured or killed by a land mine”.

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