Humanity & Inclusion has been conducting weapons clearance operations near Faya-Largeau, the capital of Borku province in northern Chad, since November 2018. Gilles Lordet, a communications officer at HI, recently joined our team of weapons clearance experts and observed their typical work day. It all starts at 4:30 AM. Read on!
4:30 AM: Before sunrise, the team drives to a site in Wadagar, about ten miles from Faya-Largeau. The weapons clearance team starts their day early so they can take advantage of the fresh morning air.
5:00 AM: The team arrives in Wadagar, located in the middle of the desert, along a railroad track. On this particular morning, fifteen weapons clearance experts working on the site gather around Pitchou Lusamba, the operations supervisor. "We're going to start with the weapons clearance platform,” Lusamba explains. “The weapons clearance experts will only be brought in if necessary.”
5:30 AM: To assist with clearance, our teams use a SAG200, made especially for Humanity & Inclusion and our operations in Chad. The SAG200 is like a huge combine harvester. Its rotating front arms detonate all explosive devices in its path. A separate truck transports the SAG200 to the site. After unloading and some adjustments are made, it’s ready for action. Charles Coly, a weapons clearance expert trained to use the machine, controls it remotely at a safe distance.
"For safety reasons, I always need to be more than 500 feet from the machine when it is on contaminated land,” Coly explains. “The front arms rotate at nearly 3,000 rpm. They dig 8 inches into the ground and destroy all explosive devices in their path. Normally, the mines are automatically torn to pieces–they don't even have time to explode. But sometimes they do. A few weeks ago, a rocket exploded as the machine passed over it. The machine was unharmed. It’s designed to withstand an explosion."
7:00 AM: Six weapons clearance experts equip themselves with demining aprons, helmets, and metal detectors. They walk along the 650-foot access corridor to the clearance site where they work in teams of two. The first teammate demines and the second watches from a safe distance, ready to help if there is a problem.
7:30 AM: Manual mine clearance work is long and meticulous. The weapons clearance experts work along a 3-foot-wide corridor. They pass the metal detector above the ground and advance in 17-inch steps. A ruler on the ground marks each step forward. "It may not look like it, but it's an exhausting job,” says Pitchou. “It's 40 degrees [Celsius], we're in full sunlight wearing all the equipment. Deminers need regular breaks. They must be fully focused on the job. Their movements need to be precise and they must follow the mine clearance instructions at all times.”
By 8:00 AM, the temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The weapons clearance experts work in 45-minute shifts. At 10:00 AM, they take a break to rehydrate and get a bite to eat. They work like this until 12:00 PM, when the teams return to base. In the meantime, the machine returns to the garage and receives routine checks.
The Faya-Largeau region has been slow to develop largely due to explosive remnants of war. Humanity & Inclusion’s mine clearance teams in Chad work tirelessly to clear the land, restoring the use of railroad tracks and land to the local people. This allows them to grow crops, raise livestock, and most importantly, live in safety.
Humanity & Inclusion in Chad
Since October 2014, HI has been working to reduce the threat of explosive remnants of war and provide essential assistance to the victims of these weapons in Chad. Nearly 300,000 people live under the constant threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war—the legacy of four decades of successive wars in Chad. The presence of these weapons is a major obstacle to the country’s development. Learn more about our work in Chad and how we’re making the land safe for generations to come.