The landmines in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) date back to the Liberation War of the 1970s when Rhodesian forces laid hundreds of kilometres of barrier minefields along borders with Zambia and Mozambique, to prevent insurgents from moving in and out of the country for training and re-supply. Anti-personnel mines were initially laid in very dense belts (reportedly 5,500 mines per kilometre of frontage) to form a cordon sanitaire. Later, a second belt of directional fragmentation mines guarded by anti-personnel mines were also laid in-land of the cordon sanitaire.


Although it receives little publicity, Zimbabwe is one of the most highly mine-impacted countries in the world. There are very dense, unfenced minefields close to houses, schools and clinics and access to agricultural land is denied to small scale farmers. Livestock are killed weekly and communities are separated from their primary water sources. It is estimated that over 1,550 people have lost their lives or been injured by mines since the war. Little is being done to assist survivors – many amputees have no or very old prosthetics. HALO’s work in Zimbabwe is focused in the North East where our survey recorded 187 minefields with a combined frontage of 425km and a total contaminated area of 28km2. This affects over 75,000 people across eighty-seven communities on the Zimbabwe side of the border. There have been over 120,000 cattle accidents across the whole frontage since 1980. With each animal worth around $300 that equates to a loss of more than $1,000,000 per annum.


HALO began survey in Zimbabwe in August 2013 and demining in November 2013. The 150 staff mostly come from mine affected communities. Currently only manual deminers are being used, clearing approximately 500 mines and 1km of frontage per month. Mechanical support is needed too and we will need to expand capacity by a factor of three to complete the task in ten years. We are also working with Cassim’s Prosthetics to provide prosthetic limbs for mine survivors and Happy Readers to provide risk education books for school children.

Next Steps

We are grateful for the support of many organisations: PM/WRA, Embassy of Japan, Irish Aid, Fondation Pro Victimis, World Without Mines, NVESD, Julia Burke Foundation, Actiefonds Mijnen Ruimen, Jack Deloss Taylor Charitable Trust and The Dulverton Trust. But Zimbabwe is just at the beginning of its demining lifecycle. HALO clearance teams are working on some of the highest priority sites in the world and need long-term donor support, at increased levels, to ensure that the border communities can live, work and walk to school freely without the immediate threat of mines.