6:08 AM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

After almost thirty years of war, Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Grain must be imported and the economy depends heavily on foreign aid. Mozambique is faced with desertification, pollution of surface and coastal waters, and severe drought and floods in the central and southern provinces.

In addition, much of its farmable land is unusable because of landmines. "Perhaps the most devastating use of land mines was the random dissection of mines in fields and along access paths to stop people from producing food," notes Human Rights Watch Africa in a report entitled "Land Mines and Economic Life". Mines manufactured in 15 different countries were used by all sides in the fighting, accelerating a devastating famine cycle in the 1980s that sent a huge refugee exodus across the borders with South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.

According to Handicap International, an estimated 20 people step on landmines every month in Mozambique. Sixty percent of them die because they lack access to health services. In 1996, Mozambique's Defence Minister estimated that there were still about 3 million landmines in Mozambique.

The devastation caused by mines in Mozambique is striking. In addition to farmable land, power lines, roads, bridges, railroads, and airports, even schools, factories and cattle dip tanks were mined. Wildlife is also threatened by mines: elephants have been found maimed by anti-personnel mines and killed by anti-tank mines.