Back in 1986, an 18-year-old Domingos Caspa, was walking along a well-used trail through a field near his house in the village of Nhancole in northern Mozambique, heading over to a neighbor building a new house. Along the way, he stepped off the path and onto a landmine, joining thousands of innocent civilians injured every year by abandoned munitions. Today, U.S. humanitarian demining assistance has brought new hope for a safer future for Domingos and his family, and countless other communities, as Mozambique moves closer to becoming mine impact-free.
Mozambique's challenges from landmines and unexploded ordnance dates back to the country's 1964-1975 war of independence and continued throughout the civil war that followed. By the end of conflict in 1992, Mozambique was among the world's most severely landmine-affected countries in the world with hundreds of mined areas, including a 20-mile belt of landmines set to protect key infrastructure, such as the Cahora Bassa Dam and power lines.
For more than 13 years, the United States has actively invested in Mozambique's future, with more than $44 million toward efforts to safely clear landmines and unexploded ordnance. Since 2007, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has provided more than $7.4 million in support to the HALO Trust, a UK-based humanitarian landmine clearance organization and leading U.S. partner in humanitarian demining. Among its many programs, HALO trains and equips area residents to take on demining operations, fostering local capacity and expertise. By 2009, these teams succeeded in clearing the northern half of Mozambique with the removal of 100,843 mines in 552 mined areas in the provinces of Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Zambezia. The removal of these mines has resulted in countless numbers of lives saved and injuries prevented.
In many countries around the world, landmines and unexploded ordnance inhibit development, disrupt markets and production, prevent the delivery of goods and services, and generally obstruct reconstruction and stabilization efforts. By removing these deadly hazards, we can help children, families, and communities to live in safety, as well as encourage the socio-economic development needed to further the larger goal of promoting peace and prosperity.
Under the Conventional Weapons Destruction Program -- a partnership among the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- the United States has contributed more than $1.9 billion toward landmine clearance and conventional weapons and munitions destruction in more than 80 countries. U.S.-funded initiatives funded include:
• Mine clearance projects by 63 partner organizations, such as The HALO Trust and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG);
• Mine-risk education to help endangered residents avoid injury by identifying potential hazards;
• Research and development into new demining technologies;
• Training local demining technicians in affected countries; and
• Supporting rehabilitation programs serving those injured by landmines and unexploded munitions.
The United States is proud to be the world's single largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction programs, such as humanitarian demining, and to help countries like Mozambique build their own expertise and take a leadership role in solving the problem.
Thanks to U.S. support, HALO deminers brought hope for a safer future along with their demining equipment, and Mozambique is on track to being able to declare itself mine-impact free by 2015, a day that can't come soon enough for Domingos Caspa and his family.
"Now that the land is being cleared of mines, my family can expand the farm and graze our livestock without fear of being injured or killed."