U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Programs: Africa

To Walk the Earth in Safety: The U.S. Commitment to Humanitarian Mine Action
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
June 2006


Flag of AngolaA decade-long war of independence in the 1960s, followed by nearly 30 years of civil war, left Angola with a severe landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem as well as excess stockpiles of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW). Landmines were emplaced in areas bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Namibia, and near roads, health clinics, other public facilities, water access points, and agricultural lands. Demining efforts intensified soon after the 2002 peace agreement, often in conjunction with refugee resettlement. However, a systematic mine and UXO clearance program is still in its initial stages. The Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) data collected to date reflects 75 percent of the settlements in Angola. Completion of the LIS is expected in 2006.

Public-Private Partnership Program encourages civil society to support humanitarian mine action around the world. Pictured from left to right: Two Angolan deminers employed by NPA escort Deborah Netland, PM/WRA Program Manager for Angola, and Heidi and Gary Kuhn, President and Executive Director, respectively, of Roots of Peace, on a site visit.  Roots of Peace, one of PM/WRA's partner organizations, supports not only the demining of agricultural land, but also backs projects that enable farmers to replant and market their crops once again. Roots of Peace.In FY04, the United States allocated over $6 million to Angola and in FY05 allocated over $6.8 million for mine action there. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted over $2,158,000 to The HALO Trust, $1,550,000 to Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), and $1,250,000 to Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for mine and UXO clearance and equipment. $750,000 was provided to the Survey Action Center for continued support of the LIS and an additional $265,000 to the HALO Trust and MAG to complete LIS data collection in Cuando Cubango, Moxico, and Lunda Sol provinces. Also, PM/WRA granted $200,000 to Roots of Peace for a "demine-replant-rebuild" project in Huambo Province. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development's Leahy War Victims Fund (USAID/LWVF), in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), extended $800,000 in landmine survivors assistance to the Angolan people. A USAID/LWVF-funded and VVAF-managed Rehabilitation Center provides physiotherapy, HIV awareness and peer education training, and counseling in social and economic reintegration for people with mobility-related injuries. Angola remains a high-priority country in the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program. In terms of reducing the SA/LW stocks collected from demobilized units following the civil war, PM/WRA provided $684,500 in destruction assistance through a contract with the U.S. firm OrdSafe. A total of 107,400 pieces of SA/LW were destroyed by OrdSafe, and a destruction facility was refurbished for future projects.

Demining is not an end in itself. In addition to saving lives, mine action projects should also enable social and economic recovery. This school, now under construction in Chicomba, Huila Province, sits on 33,000 square meters of formerly mined land that NPA cleared in 2003 and 2004 through a PM/WRA grant. Norwegian People's Aid. U.S.-funded humanitarian mine action (HMA) executed through the aforementioned non-governmental organizations has had a direct and positive impact on Angolan post-war reconstruction. For example, MAG's clearance of the Cassongo Minefield near Luena in Moxico Province allowed Save the Children to start a rice seed replication project leading to the first local rice production since 1998. NPA's activities reopened the Que-Chicomba road, allowing access by humanitarian agencies to assist more than 50,000 people living in the area. The HALO Trust's demining of a bridge in Huambo Province enabled the Swedish Relief Agency to rebuild the crossing and deliver aid from the World Food Program to 20,000 families.

Angola's nascent HMA capability is slowly growing, with the National Inter- Sectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance progressing with a draft medium-range HMA strategy for 2006 to 2010. Although the LIS is not complete, available data provide an effective tool for planning at both strategic and operational task levels and it is now believed that the clearance of high impact areas should be achievable by 2010-2011.


A mine risk education poster that likens some of the typical landmines and other remnants of war found in Chad to the sting of a deadly scorpion. In those parts of the world where literacy levels are low, it is important that  mine risk education incorporate images that convey the necessary message. Deborah Netland, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. Flag of ChadAs a result of 30 years of civil war and Libyan military intervention, landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) affect 1,081 square kilometers of Chadian land. Heavy concentrations of mines surround communities in the north and east of the country. UXO found in military training areas poses a significant problem for nomadic herders who must pick through munitions to access vital water supplies, while toxins leaking from UXO have poisoned their livestock.

Job done! This particular batch of anti-vehicle mines, UXO, and AO has been utterly destroyed and will never again pose a danger to anyone. Deborah Netland, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. In FY04, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense contributed nearly $1,200,000 to humanitarian mine action (HMA) in Chad. A $350,000 contract provided emergency medical evacuation capabilities for deployed teams. Mines Advisory Group (MAG) received a $300,000 grant for a rapid assessment and verification survey. In FY05, the United States allocated $100,000 to conduct a technical survey and spot clearance of mine- and UXO-affected areas in Chad. The U.S. Department of State provided $300,000 for new 4x4 vehicles to support U.S.- funded MAG operations to clear blocked water access points and landmine/UXO caches. The U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) provided $243,562 to train Chadian deminers in leadership, management, information systems, and quality-assurance skills.

By early 2007, the Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement plans to complete clearance of all known blocked water access points.

As an outcome of continuous mine and UXO clearance in the Fada region, date-palm cultivation has returned, along with normalizing access to public buildings, such as schools, markets, and medical facilities. According to the national HMA plan, by 2010 it is expected that demining of all known sites will be completed. In 2005 USEUCOM began to focus its mine action efforts on assisting the Chadian Haut Commissariat National au D�minage to develop a Mine Victims Assistance Program through emphasis on management, immediate medical care, trauma management, evacuation techniques and procedures, and medical care in treatment facilities. The $800,000 effort began in March 2006 and will be executed by U.S. Military Health Professionals from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine.

This collection of anti-vehicle mines, artillery shells, and other UXO, cleared by Chadian deminers with the support of the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program, is ready for demolition. Deborah Netland, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

UXO and caches of abandoned ordnance (AO), not just persistent landmines continue to kill and maim people in  Chad who inadvertently encounter them, or who attempt to recycle the metal out of fi nancial need. This unexploded mortar round and other lethal remnants of war pose a threat to anyone who tampers with this heap of scrap metal observed during a recent PM/WRADoD Program Management Assessment Visit to Chad. PM/WRA continues to support UXO, abandoned ordnance (AO), and landmine clearance in Chad. Deborah Netland, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.


During their first field visit in 2002, representatives of the Mine Action Support Group (MASG), then chaired by Belgium, observe an Eritrean Demining Agency forward aid station at a minefield in the Temporary Security Zone. Twenty-five donor nations, including the United States, which assumed the chair of the MASG in January 2006, participate in the MASG to coordinate their respective bilateral mine action assistance to affected countries. John Stevens, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. Flag of EritreaThree decades of civil strife, and the conflict with Ethiopia in 1998-2000, left Eritrea with a severe landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem, particularly near or in populated areas, farmlands, water sources, and along its northern border. Since FY94, the U.S. has given $17,718,000 in humanitarian mine action assistance to Eritrea including $1,452,000 in FY04 and $2,800,000 in FY05 to clear the way for reconstruction and the return of internally displaced persons.

In order to develop a host-nation capability, PM/WRA continues to fund a Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)/Deminer Trainer and a Senior Dog Trainer who have trained 80 Eritrean deminers and 18 mine detecting dogs (MDDs), respectively. PM/WRA also provides spare parts, equipment, and supplies to enable the Eritrean Demining Organization (EDO) and RONCO Consulting Corporation, a PM/WRA contractor that has worked in Eritrea since 2001, to conduct operations in the field. In addition, PM/WRA has improved EDO's mine clearance capabilities by training and certifying UXO disposal staff, adding six MDDs to the original 12, and integrating the three Eritrean manual demining teams with MDD teams. Finally, PM/WRA funds a Mine Risk Education (MRE) project that has established an institutional MRE capacity at the EDO, and an MRE training capacity at the National Training Center.

Having cleared more than 4 million square meters of land with U.S. assistance (1.7 million square meters in 2004, and 2,563,453 square meters in 2005), Eritrea is close to possessing its own demining capacity. In 2005, PM/WRA's assistance also enabled Eritrea to clear over 10,000 items of UXO. The United States continued to be the largest mine action donor to Eritrea in 2004 and 2005. It expanded its MRE efforts there, provided new demining equipment and vehicles, and enabled the safe return of 15,000 internally displaced persons and refugees. With host nation, U.S., and international support, Eritrea could develop its own indigenous capacity to conduct humanitarian mine action activities in the near future.  

An Eritrean deminer carefully probes for a persistent landmine, found by an MDD, in the Temporary Security Zone. Note the metal detector that lays beside him to his left. After he has cleared the small section of ground immediately ahead of him, he will extend the clearance lane by an increment, and then use the metal detector to sweep another small patch of ground ahead. His supervisor will follow to sweep the same lane with a metal detector to ensure that every landmine and piece of metal that could generate a 'false positive' to a metal detector has, indeed, been removed. PM/WRA provided this deminer's metal detector, personal protective equipment, and other gear. Matt Murphy, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

The U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program provides comprehensive assistance tailored to a mine-affected country's needs and expressed desires, including the development of infrastructure to fully support indigenous capacity. U.S. assistance to Eritrea has included the provision of professional training for its mine action managers and demining personnel, personal protective equipment, mine detecting gear, four-wheel drive vehicles, mine detecting dogs, kennels, food and medicine to properly care for the dogs, medical training and supplies, and even buildings. This is the National Demining Headquarters in Keren that Eritrean workers built in 2000 using local materials purchased with $165,714 in U.S. funds. RONCO Consulting Corporation.


Liberia flagLiberia's surplus of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) can be attributed to a series of civil conflicts and coups from 1980 to 2003. With the signing of a peace agreement in August 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) deployed 15,000 peacekeepers in the country to, among its many responsibilities, support the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program in which former fighters surrendered their weapons to peacekeepers. Given the risk that criminals and arms smugglers might steal from the growing stockpile of SA/LW, Jacques P. Klein, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General and Coordinator of UN Operations in Liberia, accepted an offer from the U.S. Department of State to pay for and manage the SA/LW destruction program.

In December 2003, OrdSAFE, a U.S. firm contracted by the Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, began destroying SA/LW collected by UNMIL. Within three months, OrdSAFE and UNMIL prevented 8,200 SA/LW and some heavy weapons from ever reaching the hands of warlords and black market arms dealers: a Liberian team equipped with gas-powered, hand-held saws, under OrdSAFE supervision, destroyed 33,000 SA/LW. The total cost of the program, which formally ended in FY04, was $360,000.

While accompanying an UNMIL team on a visit to warehouses in Monrovia that contained arms and munitions deemed excess for Liberia's defense needs, a PM/WRA officer noticed these MANPADS casually propped against a wall, and many MANPADS were found in crates. Until then, the warehouses were thought to contain only some anti-tank weapons and other light, conventional arms. With U.S. help, UNMIL destroyed these MANPADS, which will never again be a threat to global aviation. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

This container of small arms and light weapons, excess to Liberia's defense needs, was found during an UNMIL inspection in which a PM/WRA officer participated. Just as persistent landmines can block roads and impede post-conflict recovery, these weapons in the hands of criminals and ill-disciplined soldiers hinder safe movement and destabilize society. This particular batch will not, because with PM/WRA assistance, they were destroyed. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

Liberian personnel destroy MANPADS and other small arms/light weapons declared excess to Liberia's defense needs. PM/WRA funded this destruction effort. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.


Women carry containers of water through a narrow but safe passage in an active minefield that with PM/WRA funding was being cleared by The HALO Trust. The HALO Trust. Flag of MozambiqueTwenty-six years of conflict, including a war for independence and subsequent civil war, left Mozambique littered with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Although landmines are found in all of Mozambique's provinces, Inhambane has the largest percentage of at-risk population, while Nampula and Cabo Delgado have the most square meters of suspected mined areas.

In FY04, the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement allocated $1,492,000 for humanitarian mine action (HMA) in Mozambique. These funds consisted of $1,372,000 to The HALO Trust for continued demining operations in two provinces, Zambezia and Cabo Delgado, and $120,000 to improve quality of the skills of the Mozambican Armed Forces' (FADM) humanitarian demining cadre through additional training, equipment and logistical support, ensuring that work is performed according to International Mine Action Standards. The HALO Trust's work in Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique enabled commerce to resume on the main Pemba-Montepuez road to the provincial capital and recovered farmland bordering the road. Mine clearance allowed local communities to cultivate and develop cashew plantations, which contribute to the provincial economy. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also contributed $350,000 for landmine survivors programs. In FY05, the United States provided $2,336,000 more in mine action aid. Of this amount, The HALO Trust received $676,000 to support seven manual demining teams, one survey team, one mine detecting dog team, and two mechanical teams. $1,666,000 was provided in training,technical support, and equipment to further develop the FADM humanitarian demining (HD) unit's capability as the sole government HD provider.

Because of reduced participation by commercial demining firms, 2003 saw a slight drop in total land cleared compared to 2002, although the FADM demining unit's skills improved, having clearing 130,710 square meters in Maputo Province. This is a significant improvement from the 2,000 square meters this unit cleared in 2002. The U.S. Department of State's Quick Reaction Demining Force (QRDF) cleared another 131,305 square meters in 2003. The National Demining Institute (IND) reported 11,842,476 square meters of land cleared by humanitarian and commercial organizations in 2004, a 68 percent increase from 2003. Included in this figure is the work of the QRDF that cleared 299,406 square meters. The revised National Mine Action Plan drafted by the IND has set a goal of impact-free status for the country by 2009, with all high and medium impact areas to be cleared by the end of 2006.

An Atlas Copco tractor with a brush-cutting attachment, provided to The HALO Trust by PM/WRA, clears high grass, brush, and shrubs from a mined area in Mozambique. Next, a deminer can sweep the ground for mines with a metal detector and easily excavate those that are found. When conditions, such as terrain, roads, bridges, and technical support permit, mechanical brush cutters can accomplish in minutes what it takes a manual deminer many hours to do, significantly improving productivity. Matt Murphy, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

The village of Cabo Delgado was still partially infested by persistent landmines when this photograph was taken. Note the little child walking to the left (the safe side) of the wooden stakes. The HALO Trust, with PM/WRA funding, has since cleared the landmines and UXO from this village. Deborah Netland, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.


Flag of Sao Tome and Principe.In July 2003, S�o Tom� and Pr�ncipe, a country composed of two islands in the Gulf of Guinea, was rocked by a military coup backed by civilians armed with illegally-obtained firearms, highlighting the dangers posed to peace and stability by unsecured and illicit small arms and light weapons (SA/LW). After international mediation negotiated a peaceful end to the coup, the Government of S�o Tom� and Pr�ncipe approached the United States for assistance with SA/LW destruction.

In FY04, the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) granted a $50,000 contract to RONCO Consulting Corporation, a U.S. firm, for the destruction of aging sea mines, SA/LW, and related ammunition. With the support of the S�o Tom� Army, RONCO ordnance technicians safely detonated 1,000 sea mines, 30 rocket-propelled grenades, 105 handheld grenades, and 663,200 rounds of ammunition. PM/WRA and the U.S. Department of Defense also facilitated the removal and destruction of 54 man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).

BOOOOM! Another batch of munitions not needed for S�o Tom� and Pr�ncipe's defense needs is completely destroyed. This particular batch, and many others like it, will never pose a threat to anyone again. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and RONCO Consulting Corporation.

One of many batches of persistent mines, mortar shells and other munitions being readied for destruction in S�o Tom� and Pr�ncipe. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and RONCO Consulting Corporation.

Workers repair a firing pit at a government demolition range so that arms and munitions excess to the defense needs of S�o Tom� and Pr�ncipe may be destroyed. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and RONCO Consulting Corporation.


Senegalese women in a village in the Casamance region receive mine risk education training under a program funded by the USAID/LWVF. Handicap International France. Flag of SenegalA separatist conflict in Senegal's Casamance region that began in 1982 worsened in the late 1990s with the introduction of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. A 2001 peace settlement has allowed significant humanitarian mine action programs to begin, including U.S. Agency for International Development Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) support for mine survivors rehabilitation services and mine risk education (MRE). In FY04, the U.S. allocated $112,000 to Senegal to fund community-based MRE through UNICEF. This program is using a variety of media, including radio programming, music cassettes, and informational materials to raise awareness among tens of thousands of Senegalese in the areas most affected by mines and unexploded ordnance. The LWVF provided $500,000 in survivors assistance in FY05.



Flag of SudanWith the signing of the Burgenstock Cease-fire Agreement in 2002, the U.S. Department of State deployed elements of its Quick Reaction Demining Force (see page 6) to the Nuba Mountains to restore safe access to mine-affected land and roads in this region. This also permitted cease-fire monitors greater freedom of movement in accomplishing their mission and facilitated the return of refugees. In FY04, the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) provided $2,858,000 for humanitarian mine action, including landmine clearance by the World Food Program and RONCO Consulting Corporation, a U.S. firm. Nearly $500,000 went to Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for mine risk education in communities near Sudan's southern borders. In FY05, PM/WRA granted $560,000 to MAG to equip and train one nine person explosives and ordnance disposal team and to identify stockpiles of unsecured or abandoned weapons in the Yei, Morobo, and Juba counties in southern Sudan. Over a thousand pieces of unexploded and abandoned munitions were removed before deterioration in the security environment in late 2005 temporarily prevented further operations.

In FY05, PM/WRA provided $2,500,000 more in mine action assistance. Of this amount, $700,000 funded a survey by Norwegian People's Aid of suspected mined roads and infrastructure in the Equatorial province of South Sudan. Also, in September 2003, the U.S. Agency for International Development's Leahy War Victims Fund initiated a 28-month project in southern Sudan with Medical Care Development International that increased local access to orthopedic and physical therapy services in Rumbek and surrounding areas, and assisted civilian victims of war to reintegrate into southern Sudanese society and economy. An additional $265,000 was given to Landmine Action for mine clearance in Blue Nile State in North Sudan.

In the coming years, PM/WRA plans to expand assistance that will include the destruction of small arms and light weapons, while simultaneously strengthening Sudan's national demining capabilities.

Villagers in the South Sudanese village of Yei attend a PM/WRA-funded mine risk education class conducted by Mines Advisory Group (MAG). Will the little child gazing solemnly at the photographer reach adulthood and 'walk the earth in safety?'  Jennifer Lachman, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

This vehicle, destroyed by a landmine, was operated by the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (Fondation Suisse de D�minage [FSD]). It is a constant reminder to these South Sudanese from the village of Yei who walk past it of the 'hidden killers' that endanger life and limb. FSD continues to conduct humanitarian mine action in South Sudan as well as in Laos, Tajikistan, and Sri Lanka. Jennifer Lachman, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

During a program management assessment visit, Jennifer Lachman (in the white blouse on the left), PM/WRA, listens to SouthSudanese landmine survivors recount the incidents that disabled them and how they are now coping. Jennifer Lachman, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.