Angola has long been recognised as one of the most landmine contaminated countries in the world. MAG continues to work in Moxico – the poorest and worst-affected province.
Photo: JB Russell/MAG
Following decades of civil conflict, Angola suffers from one of the highest levels of contamination from landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the world.
This constant threat reduces access to agricultural land, markets, water and other basic services, and impedes development. Nowhere is this more evident than in the eastern province of Moxico, which is characterised by poverty and a population struggling to rebuild their lives post-conflict.
A large proportion of Moxico's population comprises former refugees or internally displaced people who fled their homes during the violence – to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, or other parts of Angola – and began returning to the area once peace was restored in 2002.
Often they have been left little choice but to settle in areas with high levels of mines and UXO, and frequently have low awareness of the risks or how to keep themselves safe.
How MAG is helping in Angola
Ever since MAG's programme in Angola began in 1994, the need to ensure our work reaches those most in need has been vital. MAG has returned 85 million square metres of land to safe and productive use in the country since 2002.
In 2013 alone, we helped 57,362 men, women and children in Angola.
Working with both local people and national/local partners means that our work has meaningful, long-term benefits.
• MAG is clearing "high-priority" land for those living near or in marked minefields. As people continue to resettle in the villages of Moxico province the demand for safe land for housing and subsistence agriculture is growing.
More than half a million people are estimated to have fled Angola during the many years of fighting, and according to the UN's Refugee Agency around 73,000 remain in exile. In 2014, up to 26,000 are expected to return from neighbouring countries Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, of whom 8,000 are destined for Moxico.
• MAG is supporting the development of Moxico, making land safe so that the provincial government can carry out school and health clinic building projects.
• MAG is removing the explosive items that people find in their daily lives, reducing the risk of injury and death, particularly for those living in poverty in rural areas.
MAG has returned 85 million square metres of land to safe and productive use in Angola since 2002
How MAG works in Angola
We use an approach we’ve called MAG’s Integrated Clearance Methodology, to ensure the right tools are being applied for the best results, and it includes:
• Minefield clearance: Manual demining teams removing and destroying dangerous items from known minefields.
• Risk Education: This aims to prevent death and injury from landmines and UXO by, for example, raising awareness within communities of the problems and teaching returnees how to protect themselves and their families. See also: Community Liaison and Risk Education.
• Explosive Ordnance Disposal: Roving teams respond to reports of UXO across Moxico to remove and destroy individual items.
• Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS): MAG has been a leading agency in the trialling and refining of these innovative detectors, which use radar technology to differentiate between dangerous items and scrap metal fragments. This means contaminated areas with high metal content can be quickly and cost-effectively returned to communities.
• Machinery: Preparing contaminated ground using machines means we can clear vegetation at a much faster rate than manual teams. These tools also free up demining staff to use their expertise more efficiently.
Risk Education includes the provision of safety messages to at-risk individuals and communities, raising awareness of the dangers and promoting safe behaviour. LandminesA landmine is defined by the Mine Ban Treaty as "a munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle."
Landmines are generally divided into two main groups - anti-personnel and anti-tank - and have four main component parts: an outer structure made of either plastic, wood, metal, Bakelite, rubber or even glass; a fuse or firing mechanism; a detonator; and high explosives.
Some contain thousands of pieces of shrapnel, designed to fire out to great distances, while others have been made with a minimum amount of metal and are therefore difficult to detect using metal detectors.Non-technical surveyNon-Technical Surveys (NTS) involve collecting and analysing information - eg. through desk assessments, analysis of historical records, and location visits - to assess whether areas are contaminated by landmines/unexploded ordnance.Suspected Hazardous AreasA 'Suspected Hazardous Area' (SHA) is an area where there is reasonable suspicion of contamination from landmines and/or unexploded ordnance/abandoned ordnance, on the basis of indirect evidence.
[Source: International Mine Action Standards]
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