Mozambique: U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Opens New Opportunities

Posted by John Zak
November 5, 2009
Former Frelimo Soldier Clears Mines in Mozambique

About the Author: John Zak is a Grants Program Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique.

Mozambique’s landmine problem was once one of the most severe in the world, with a legacy of landmines and explosive remnants of war from decades of conflict. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $47 million of assistance in Mozambique to safely clear areas of landmines and unexploded ordnance, helping safeguard communities and demonstrating America’s commitment to peace and stability in Mozambique.

Our latest $2 million grant will fund survey and clearance teams from The HALO Trust, a United Kingdom-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) and leading U.S. humanitarian demining partner. These HALO teams ─ staffed largely by local Mozambican demining technicians ─ will survey all villages across six districts of Maputo Province as well as conduct re-survey and clearance of priority minefields in Maputo, Manica and Tete.

In all, tens of thousands of landmines were laid in Mozambique during its 1964-1975 fight for independence and throughout the civil war that followed. All factions used mines to defend provincial and district towns, roads, airstrips, key bridges, power supply infrastructure and military posts. Although the civil war ended in the early 1990s, landmines and unexploded ordnance continue to claim lives and hinder development.

Newly cleared lands mean new opportunities to continue rebuilding Mozambique through economic development and building new communities, farms, and businesses. But landmines are more than a physical threat ─ they are also a powerful symbol of the violence and instability of Mozambique’s past. When we remove landmines, we also help Mozambique remove the vestiges of the past and move toward a new era of peace and stability.

After more than 17 years of foreign assistance funding demining activities, the number of known and suspect hazardous areas has been significantly reduced with help from the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action program, a joint effort by the Department of State, Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who work together to reduce risks in nearly 50 post conflict countries around the world.

From Angola, to Afghanistan, to Sri Lanka, U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action has delivered more than $1.3 billion in aid, making the United States the world’s leading contributor to post-conflict efforts to help countries remove these explosive remnants of war. Projects funded under the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action program include:

• Mine clearance projects by 63 partner organizations such as The HALO Trust;
• Mine-risk education to help area 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.

U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action has contributed to significant reductions in casualties from mines and explosive remnants of war, and is one of many ways the United States is demonstrating its commitment to peace and stability in Mozambique and the wider region.

We look forward to a time when all Mozambicans are free to walk on their land without the fear of explosives. The United States supports the aspirations of Mozambicans who wish to make their hopes for a more peaceful, more stable, and more democratic Mozambique a reality.



Virginia, USA
November 5, 2009

Donald in Virginia writes:

Seems to me like there should be a method of flooding the land with water, creating a swamp land environment, what ever is buried would be rusted and most likely unable to fire. Possibly adding something to the water that adds corrosion to metal and wait a period of time for the water, corrosion to destroy the land mine. Trying like a square of area at a time and zone it off, then flood it completely. Then after its flooded, come in with boats with sonar equipment or metal detectors and find the mines. Once the water, and chemicals have had a time to work, then remove them safely without injury to mankind. Those that have dug up landmines knowing what material the devices are made of would know which element to use to defuse it with, so it would be easier to handle. Just an idea to help remove land mines safe.

United States
November 6, 2009

Cathy in U.S.A. writes:

Great article. What a horrible thing to have to live with everyday, the fear of stepping on a mine. Good Job USA!!!

United States
November 6, 2009

Agnes in U.S.A. writes:

Good article, Zac. Sounds like you like the work you're doing but it would scare me half to death. Also makes me appreciate the good old USA a bit more. How many people know about our relationship with Mozambique and the good we do there? Any plans to visit GR soon? Give Amy a big hug for me. You are both still appreciated for the good time I had with you in Africa.

District Of Columbia, USA
November 12, 2009

Sara in Washington, DC writes:

This is a phenomenal service that is being provided, I don't think many people realize the severity of landmines. The risk associated with these devices is not only death, but amputations. For Mozambiquans, living in one of the poorest countries in the world is difficult enough, much less having to learn how to live after a loss of limbs. There are very few organizations that help support amputee victims and as one news article I read stated, an amputee is not born learning how to cope with his/her disability so instead of learning to adapt to a deformity early on, that person must relearn how to live a normal life.

Because of the years of bloody civil war following Mozambique's independence, these landmines are spread throughout the country, not just in isolated situations. It is not the same as the landmines found near the North and South Korea border because that is a designated zone, and those landmines, used rightly or wrongly, are for border protection. However, in Mozambique, the landmines could be anywhere. Most often death or amputations occur because children were out running in a field, or adults were out looking for firewood or food. These are everyday activities that everybody should be able to enjoy or perform without the risk of danger. Deactivating these devices is definitely the first step towards helping the people of Mozambique lead a safer and better life. As a follow up, I would like to see more NGO's or other organizations step up efforts to provided assistance such as wheelchairs or physical therapy to amputee victims. However, this may be a far reaching dream because the biggest challenge right now is getting rid of these landmines.

November 13, 2009

Teddy in Sudan writes:

We want to follow your way of clearing all landmine from southern sudan. Its excellent a work done.


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