During Angola’s 27-year civil war, millions of families faced starvation or were forced to flee their homes. When the fighting ended in 2002, landmines and explosives littered fields, villages and towns, killing and injuring thousands.
We have been clearing landmines in Angola since 1994, but our work is far from finished. In rural areas the risk remains high for families living near minefields, prevented from using their land safely for growing food, or accessing water and firewood. Children are still suffering the consequences of a war that ended before they were even born. Shortly before Christmas 2016, Manuel, aged 8, lost his leg when a bomb he was playing with exploded. His friend Frederico was killed.
Initially we focused on removing landmines in regional capitals and towns, such as Huambo, which Princess Diana visited in 1997 and is now a thriving community.
We have destroyed more than 98,000 landmines and 165,000 explosive items. We have cleared more than 860 minefields and 2,500 hectares of land. We have also used pioneering systems to open safer access along 5,500 km of road, enabling emergency aid agencies to reach vulnerable communities cut off by anti-tank mines.
We are the only non-governmental organisation supporting the Angolan police and military in destroying unwanted weapons and ammunition, with over 125,000 weapons, 2.9 million bullets and 1,480 metric tons of ammunition destroyed across the country. This has significantly reduced potential unplanned explosions and armed violence.
In 2017, we launched a unique project in Angola, to train and employ all-female demining teams: HALO Angola’s 100 Women in Demining. The project aims to foster the empowerment of women in Angola by training and employing them to remove the landmines that threaten their communities. The women have the opportunity to learn new skills: from clearing landmines, to vehicle maintenance and mechanics, paramedic first aid and leadership.
Today, our work is focused in vulnerable rural areas, ensuring no one is left behind in the journey to a world free of mines. This year we will begin a unique project in partnership with the Angolan government to clear landmines in the headwaters of the Okavango—a World Heritage Site, which forms part of the five-country Kavango-Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA). Here, landmines make it almost impossible to conserve and protect the habitat and wildlife poaching is rife. By clearing the mines, we can lay the foundations for conservation-led development, allowing wildlife and local people to thrive.
For over a year, the Angolan government, US Government, HALO, and major environmental groups including National Geographic and Conservation International have worked together, with support from the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, to promote wilderness protection in the Delta region. Clearing the landmines is the first step to a brighter future for Angola, its people and wildlife.