$7.1 Million in U.S. Support to Clear Landmines in Zimbabwe

group shotThe United States has provided more than $7.1 million to Zimbabwe over the last 18 years to clear and safely dispose of landmines and unexploded ordinance. These efforts have resulted in improved access to land and infrastructure.

“We are happy about the positive impact of these activities.  These efforts help thousands of Zimbabweans to develop and live on previously contaminated land safely, immeasurably improving their lives,” said Dennis Hadrick,  the program manager from the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Reduction and Abatement in the  Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, after concluding a tour of Zimbabwe in March.  “In Burma Valley, people were risking their lives growing crops next to landmines.  That will not happen any longer,” he said.

landHadrick toured the Burma Valley in Manicaland. The area is ready to be certified landmine impact free by the National Mine Action Authority of Zimbabwe (NAMAAZ) later this month, thanks to efforts by Norwegian People’s Aid with U.S. and Norwegian support.  In FY 2013, the U.S. government provided $500,000 in assistance to Zimbabwe to support minefield and battle area clearance, surveys of suspected hazardous areas, assistance to victims of mine accidents, and mine risk education projects.

The U.S. grant assisted Norwegian People’s Aid to clear an arable land area that is 4.1 km long by 150 meters wide.  The funding also assisted the HALO Trust, a humanitarian landmine clearance organization working in northwestern Zimbabwe.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, U.S. support built the capacity of NAMAAZ and the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC) of the Ministry of Defense through equipment supply and training of multiple military engineer companies.

Hadrick said his office had committed $750,000 in FY 2014 and $1 million in FY 2015 to support demining activities in Zimbabwe.  He is also seeking additional funding to accelerate the mine clearance rate in Zimbabwe as Mozambique and Angola near completion of their demining efforts. The additional funding will enable the two organizations licensed to conduct humanitarian demining operations in Zimbabwe (HALO Trust and Norwegian People’s Aid) to continue their activities in Manicaland, Mashonaland East, and Mashonaland Centralprovinces.

Zimbabwe’s landmine contamination is a legacy of its independence war, and   Rhodesian Security Forces’ documentation indicates that they laid over 2.5 million anti-personnel (AP) mines and 76,000 AP fragmentation mines.  Remaining contamination is estimated at 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) and comprises almost 600 linear kilometers (373 miles) along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border.

Zimbabwe is one of the most highly mine-impacted countries in the world in terms of area affected and density of mines.  According to HALO Trust, the humanitarian situation is still very much that of a country in the immediate post-conflict phase.  There are mines in immediate proximity of houses, schools and clinics, access to agricultural land is denied to small scale farmers, livestock are killed in mine accidents, and communities are separated from their primary water sources.  The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor estimates 1,550 people were killed and 2,000 people injured by landmines in Zimbabwe since the end of the war in the 1970s.

U.S. support to landmine clearance efforts in Zimbabwe complements the work of the international donor community in reducing the harmful effects of poorly secured, unstable, or illegally traded conventional weapons of war.  Since 1993, the United States has contributed over $2.3 billion for conventional weapons reduction and abatement to more than 90 countries around the world.  This support, combined with contributions from the rest of the donor community, has significantly reduced the impact of landmines and unexploded ordinance. ZimPAS ©April 1, 2015