Thursday, August 4, 2011

Clearing the Land of Landmines

(ANGOP) A total of 99,980 kilometres of road have been cleared of landmines around Angola from 1996 to Q1 of 2011 as confirmed by Angola Social Welfare minister, João Baptista Kussumua. The minister was chairing the opening of the 3rd National Meeting on Demining, in representation of the Angolan head of State, José Eduardo dos Santos. 

Millions of landmines were laid in Angola during the 27 years of bitter conflict that followed independence from Portugal in 1975.  Government and Cuban forces laid extensive minefields around their bases in and around towns as well as around infrastructure such as airports, water supply stations, electrical pylons and bridges.
 Both the Government and opposing UNITA forces laid a significant number of anti-tank mines on primary, secondary and tertiary roads and to this day anti-tank mines on roads pose a far greater problem than in any other mine affected country.

The Minister also confirmed that another 3,200 kilometres of railway have been cleared of mines, including 6,016 kilometres of fiber-optic and 5,571 of electricity conveying line. In the reporting period, a total of 930,191,457 square metres have been cleared involving the clearing of a sum total of 428,274 anti-personnel landmines of which 23,384 were anti-tank mines and 2.3 million were unexploded ordnances.

Also cleared were 2.7 million kilograms of lethal material, plus 3.7 million kilograms of assorted materials. He said that despite the excellent results achieved in the process, the threat of landmines continues, putting flow of people and goods and certain areas of the national territory at permanent risk.

A British NGO, The Halo Trust, the world's oldest and largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization, has been instrumental in clearing a majority of these mines in Angola. Halo has conducted extensive surveys of the five provinces in which it operates in Angola and, as of June 2010, has confirmed 778 minefields that require clearance. (Angop, The Halo Trust)

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