DR Congo

Cluster bombs threaten lives and hinder development in Bolomba

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The majority of cluster bombs found in the war-torn town of Likbanda are discovered by people farming their land.

Likbanda is located in Bolomba Territory, Équateur Province. While the conflict in this western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo ended in 2001, large amounts of lethal submunitions remain.

A cluster bomb dispenser casing typically contains 500 submunitions, of which 50 may fail to explode on impact.

In a densely forested area like Bolomba, this failure rate is likely to be even higher than 10 per cent, as the foliage can prevent the submunitions from hitting the ground with sufficient force for detonation.

They can then lie dormant for many years, only to be triggered when eventually moved or disturbed, with deadly consequences. People here depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but as they burn and prepare the land they are at risk of coming into contact with these explosive remnants of war.

And, as well as the threat to life and limb, cluster bombs also hinder the development of communities trying to rebuild their lives after war.

Bolomba is increasingly being targeted by other non-governmental organisations for rehabilitation projects, but before these can take place there must be security.

MAG's work is a prerequisite for recovery in these areas.

From September to November, MAG DRC demolished 30 submunitions in Likbanda, plus more than 2,000 small arms ammunition items.

"I thank the men and women who work for MAG, for protecting the people of Likbanda," said the local abbot.

"When I took over the parish in January, I was unaware of the constant danger that was all around.

"Now, land is now being used for planting cassava and the proceeds from the sales of this will fund the continuing reconstruction of buildings destroyed during the war."

The "Survey and clearance operations in South Equateur" project is being funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).