Prince Harry has paid a two day visit to Mozambique to visit minefields being cleared by The HALO Trust, a British Charity and the World’s largest demining agency. Prince Harry’s visit, which was privately organised by HALO, has focused on the impact of mines on the civilian population. On Sunday, The Prince met villagers and amputees who told him about their plight among the remaining mines – including meeting a boy who lost his leg 18 months ago while herding cattle.
Prince Harry spent the night in the HALO deminers’ tented camp. The Prince was given a close-up demonstration of the process of humanitarian demining, as he observed a team undertaking mine clearance work, and was then himself given the first stages in training on HALO equipment and clearance techniques. Prince Harry detonated mines under the supervision of expert HALO deminers.
Prince Harry’s visit took place in villages around the Cahora Bassa dam in Tete province, Mozambique. In this area, 10 villages straddle 17km of unfenced mine belts, placing hundreds of families within metres of some 30,000 mines. These mines were laid over 30 years ago, and they continue to have a devastating impact on children and adults alike. The mines prevent the farming of crops and the grazing of livestock among a rural community that ranks as one of the world’s poorest.
There had been 48 mine accidents in the Cahora Bassa minefields before HALO intervened. In the area of Mozambique that Prince Harry visited, the terrain is unsuitable for the use of armoured mine clearance machines, and the density of mines so great that the most effective system of clearance is manual demining. Prince Harry observed deminers as they painstakingly used sensitive metal detectors and hand-tools to clear anti-personnel mines. The system provides the absolute “100 per cent” clearance needed to ensure that villagers can then safely use the land after HALO has finished its work.
The terrible human impact of landmines, and the work of The HALO Trust in clearing mines, was brought to the world’s attention by Diana, Princess of Wales. The late Princess visited HALO projects in Angola in 1997.
HALO’s Chief Executive, Guy Willoughby, said:
HALO is delighted that Prince Harry has come out to support us in this quest to clear Mozambique of mines – a task we could complete in the next four years. By being with us in the field, and even personally destroying mines, he has learned something of the dirty, boring, dangerous work that HALO’s 7,700 staff undertake, day-in, day-out, in the World’s most mine-impacted countries. His mother was brilliant at getting the profile of the risk of mines globally recognised. Prince Harry clearly wishes to follow her magnificent example, and is supporting The HALO Trust in its mission.
In the last month HALO cleared 925 mines from Mozambique, and 105,380 mines since starting work there in 1993. HALO employs 375 staff in Mozambique, though at its peak when finishing clearance of the four northern provinces HALO had in excess of 500 staff. Over 16 years HALO has had four staff killed in Mozambique.
Globally since 1988 HALO has cleared over 13 million mines and items of unexploded ordnance.