Creating a Safer Future in Uíge

Task completion and new Program Manager for APOPO Angola.

During Angola’s 27-year civil war, countless families were forced to flee their homes and faced starvation and the struggle to survive. When the fighting ended in 2002, landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) littered fields, villages and towns, and continue to kill and injure people to this day. As long as the landmines stay in the ground, Angola's economic development will remain severely hindered in rural areas.

In 2014, APOPO began joint operations under the umbrella of its partner Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), one of the leading humanitarian mine clearance operators in Angola. In April 2019, APOPO Mine Action Angola's longstanding ambition to become independent was realized, and the partnership with NPA concluded. In this context, we thank NPA for their commitment and look forward to a new era of autonomy in direct coordination with the National Demining Authority (CNIDAH) in Angola. APOPO began the process to become independently registered as a humanitarian demining NGO three years ago and working independently will allow APOPO increased flexibility in its clearance operations as well as access to new funding streams and a range of potential partnerships.

In January 2019 APOPO Angola welcomed a new Program Manager. Manuel João Agostinho has over 20 years’ experience in humanitarian mine action and is charged with leading the team and the transition to independent operations and a sustained program going forward until Angola is free of landmines by the APMBC deadline of 2025.

APOPO’s landmine detection rats (aka HeroRATs) are too light to detonate landmines and are very quick at finding them, making them a good tool for accelerating detection and clearance. When they are integrated into conventional landmine clearance methods such as survey, manual deminers with metal detectors, and mechanical demining, the HeroRATs are proven to significantly speed up land release, helping return safe land to vulnerable communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

At the end of February APOPO concluded a group of four tasks actually comprising one expansive minefield located near a residential area in the village of Quitexe about 39 kilometers south of the city of Uíge, in the northwestern Angolan province of Uíge. It resulted in 1,471,128 square meters being cleared and released back to the surrounding village, 25 landmines and 1,049 other ERW destroyed. With the threat of landmines now resolved, the Uíge Government will build a new municipal hospital to benefit 32,764 people or 6,553 families living in Quitexe municipality, and have also already begun communities will expand the residential area with new houses and farms, known as lavaras in the local language.

"There are many people here that are suffering, people that cannot walk freely, they cannot grow food safely or collect water from rivers because of the landmines. I think it is very important that APOPO is clearing landmines in Angola. I am very proud and feel good to be able to do this dangerous work." says Sozinha Pedro (both pictures), one of APOPO’s female deminers in Angola.

Following the completion of Uíge municipality, APOPO quickly moved onto the next task in nearby Kitomaluta village. So far APOPO and the HeroRATs have cleared 68,631 square meters and found 1 landmine and 95 other explosives. This task will directly benefit 27,189 persons of 4,500 families from the local community returning fertile land to the Kitomaluta villagers, and providing safe access to vital farmland and bringing back transport routes and trade for the community. We hope to complete this task by end of August.

APOPO Angola remains most grateful to its donors and partners who are
instrumental to the success of our landmine clearance program.