Angolans can now build infrastructure and farm crops more safely, as more than 870 million square metres of land have been cleared of mines since 2008, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The UNDP has contributed to local efforts by training more than 1,000 demining specialists at the National Demining Institute in recent years.
“The organisational level of the demining brigades, in terms of technical and administrative skills, have improved substantially and field operating results are also of a better standard,” says Leonardo Severino Sapalo, the Institute’s General Director.
Since 2008, the trained deminers have cleared just over 160 million square metres of land, and helped rid the country of over 297,000 anti-personnel mines, 9,508 anti-tank mines and 491,767 other unexploded ordnance devices, such as artillery and mortar shells, rockets and bombs.
More than 80,000 Angolans have been maimed or killed by landmines since Angola’s 27-year civil war started in 1975.
Since the war’s end, the Angolan government has prioritised landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance – mine action – as a means to cut poverty levels in the country where more than 70 percent of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.
The Menongue airport, southeast of the capital Luanda, was among the cleared areas and is now functioning with new and improved facilities.
Also clear of mines is the main railway line that serves the interior of the country to the western port city of Lobito – where the country’s second oil refinery is now under construction.
Other mine-free areas include the western city of Catembula, with a population of 913,000, and a residential area in the central Huambo Province, with 2.1 million people.
Clearance work has also allowed fibre optic cables to be safely laid and maintained throughout the country, improving communication links.
The five-year US$4.5 million Mine Action Capacity Development Project ended in 2011, and was supported by Italy, Japan, Sweden and UNDP.