Mozambique was officially declared mine-free on Thursday, Sept. 17. As one of the country’s main mine operators, Handicap International hailed the announcement as a victory for the people of Mozambique. Liberated from this threat, which has caused thousands of casualties, Mozambicans can finally turn the page on this chapter of their history, and enjoy the opportunities for growth that were previously impossible with so many landmines present.
From the start of demining operations in 1998, Handicap International was a key mine actor in Mozambique. Over a period of 17 years, the organization demined more than 16 million square meters of land, and neutralized 6,000 anti-personnel mines and 5,000 explosive remnants of war using a demining process combining people, dogs and machines.
“It’s a victory for everyone in Mozambique,” explains Grégory Le Blanc, head of Handicap International’s mission in Mozambique. “Now children can play outside, farmers can work their fields, and villages can grow without the fear of setting off a mine. However, the country must continue helping victims, because “mine-free” doesn’t mean that the victims of these barbaric weapons have disappeared.”
Under the terms of the Ottawa Treaty, Maputo is obliged to continue helping its thousands of mine accident survivors. They will need rehabilitation and orthopedic follow-up care, social and occupational inclusion, and other assistance for years to come.
“The international community also needs to keep up its efforts against mines,” adds Le Blanc. “Although we’ve made a lot of progress, there’s still a long way to go in terms of funding for demining, victim assistance and risk education. By staying the course for so many years, Mozambique has shown that it is possible to beat anti-personnel mines. It sends a message of hope to all countries which are having to deal with this terrible burden.”
It took more than 20 years of hard work by several demining operators to eradicate mines in Mozambique. A devastating 25-year war of independence (1965-1975), followed by a civil war (1977-1992), had left Mozambique among the most mined countries in the world, along with the likes of Angola, Afghanistan and Cambodia.
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 33 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Prize. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.
162 States, including Mozambique, are parties to the Ottawa Treaty, equivalent to 80% of the world’s countries. Only 35 States have yet to sign the treaty. The treaty, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and requires States Parties to destroy them, was adopted in 1997; it entered into force on 1 March 1999.