HALO Angola – Winning a Battle but still Fighting a War
Benguela Province - Biópio town, mined during the civil conflict that ended in 2002, was made safe by HALO with funding provided by the United States Department of State. In all, 5,730 mines and 106 items of unexploded ordnance were removed from the area. The recently held handover ceremony last week was attended by US Ambassador Christopher McMullen and the Benguela Vice-Governor Agostinho Felizardo. Locals can now walk to class, secure in the knowledge that their steps will be safe ones.
Landmines encircled the dam and the town of Biópio preventing access to water sources for fishing and land for grazing cattle. One former minefield was located 300 metres from the local primary school. Students used to cross the minefield each day to get to class, as shown in Angelina Jolie’s narration with Google Earth below:
The benefits of mine clearance go beyond the small scale direct benefit targeted at the local people. The Ministry of Water and Energy are now rehabilitating the dam with the aim of supplying electricity to Lobito, Benguela and Baia Azul municipalities. This is a major project that involves the construction of power lines along the roads that link the three municipalities. The construction of power lines had been blocked by minefields.
HALO began work on the Biópio minefields in 2007. It was a difficult and often painstaking task, with rocky terrain and intense heat often reaching 40 degrees centigrade. Steadfast funding support from the U.S. Department of State allowed HALO to persevere and finish this important job. Much work still remains to be done in Angola, but thanks to the generous support of donors like the USA, Finland and the EU - and private foundations such as the Reece family - HALO will continue over the next 10-12 years with our 650 staff to make other communities like Biópio mine free, for the benefit of all Angolans.
However, if we can raise funds for extra demining team, then we can win the War in 7-8 years, meaning that the next generation of Angolans can grow up free from the fear of landmines.