Belgium renews support for Landmine clearance in Angola
Program visit from Belgian government following their support.
We are thrilled to announce that the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BMFA) has committed € 436,653 in funding to APOPO Angola to boost our efforts to eradicate the threat of landmines in the country. Landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Angola are the legacy of four decades of armed conflict, which ended in 2002.
Today, Angola is still one of the most heavily mined countries in the world despite decades of work to address the problem. A total of 1,171 mined areas are distributed over at least 88 million m2. As a result, Angola has one of the highest causality rates of any landmine-affected country and landmines remain one of the greatest obstacles to rural development and normalisation of life since the war. International funding for landmine clearance has fallen by 80% between 2005 and 2017, and without consistent funding Angola will struggle to meet its target of clearing all landmines by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) deadline of 2025.
APOPO is committed to maintaining and further developing a robust mine action capacity that will boost land release rates considerably at significantly reduced costs. APOPO has been in Angola since 2012 but our work is far from finished. The program was originally established with support from the BMFA, using landmine detection rats integrated into the existing mine action capacity of Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA). APOPO is now a fully registered NGO in Angola and is operating independently in direct partnership with the Angolan Mine Action Authority, CNIDAH and committed to a sustained program until Angola is free of landmines.
HeroRAT Samia sniffing at the air during her search of a box looking for landmines and other explosives in Quitexe.
APOPO’s landmine detection rats (aka HeroRATs) are too light to detonate landmines and are very quick at finding them, making them an excellent 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.
APOPO was delighted to host a 2-day meeting on January 23-24th, with national and provincial mine action authorities, the Belgian Ambassador and team, operational partners and beneficiaries in various locations. We were grateful for the opportunity to share our work and results with H.E. Mr. Jozef SMETS Belgian Ambassador to Angola and representatives of the National Mine Action Authority in Angola which included a successful visit to the minefield.
At the end of September 2020 APOPO concluded a group of eight 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. APOPO worked in Uíge from March 2017 to September 2020. It resulted in 2,008,000 m2 being cleared and released back to surrounding village, 30 landmines and 1,403 other explosive remnants of war destroyed. With the threat of landmines now resolved, the local Uíge Government can begin building its new municipal hospital to benefit close to 60,000 people living in the municipality; and expand the residential area with new houses and farms, whilst opening up trade routes with other municipalities.
"I remember growing up during the war. Those were terrifying times, so much violence, hatred, death, and destruction. I thought it would never end. When it was over all we wanted was to return to normality. Instead we found we could not go home because the land was not safe...One day APOPO came to Quitexe. We heard about the rats that could sniff out landmines! It was not easy to believe. I had to see it with my own two eyes! I was amazed and it changed how I think of rats completely. I still don’t fully understand how they did it but I am deeply grateful.." says Historia (pictured above), a farmer living next to one of the minefields APOPO cleared.
Following the completion of Uíge municipality, APOPO quickly moved onto the next CNIDAH assigned task in the western Cuanza Sul province. It is the third most landmine contaminated province in Angola and, due to the integrated economic activities, it is one of the main strategic provinces for the economic growth of Angola. The provincial government authorities welcomed APOPO and provide the necessary institutional support for our establishment and for a good start of operations. This task will aim to clear 2 million m2 directly benefit over 12,000 people from the local community providing safe access to vital farmland and bringing back transport routes and trade for the community. Finally, APOPO plans to help keep people safe by teaching mine risk education—preventing devastating accidents until we can remove all the landmines and explosives for good. We hope to complete this new task by end of 2021.
APOPO Angola remains most grateful to its donors and partners who are
instrumental to the success of our landmine clearance program.