Ethiopia is one of the most mine-affected countries in Africa, with contamination stemming from a series of internal and international armed conflicts, including:
- the Italian invasion and subsequent East Africa Campaigns (1935-1941),
- the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia (1977-1978),
- a border war with Sudan (1980),
- internal conflict (1974-1991), and
- the Ethiopian-Eritrean war (1998-2000).
The Ethiopian Landmine Impact Survey (ELIS) found more than 1.9 million people living in a total of 1,492 mine-affected communities. Ten of the 11 regions (1) are affected to some degree, but the bulk of the contamination is in Afar and Tigray (bordering Eritrea, with 'classic' defensive minefields along trench lines stretching for hundreds of kilometres) and Somali Region (site of the Ogaden War, with more dispersed landmine and UXO contamination). The ELIS also recorded 16,616 casualties, more that half of whom had been killed.
Ethiopia's humanitarian demining efforts began in 1995, when the U.S. provided training and equipment to the Ethiopia Demining Project - three non-combatant demining companies under the Ministry of Defence. However, in 2001 the Government decided to establish a civilian agency - the Ethiopian Mine Action Office (EMAO) - to implement the demining component of its Emergency Rehabilitation Programme (ERP), designed for the sustainable resettlement of over 360,000 people displaced by the border war with Eritrea.
With assistance from a Mine Action Advisory Team (MAAT) from the UNDP and from the firm RONCO (funded by the U.S.), EMAO trained and equipped two demining companies, which began operations in 2002 in Tigray. Since then, four additional companies have been trained, equipped, and deployed. At the present time, four companies are based in Tigray, one in Afar, and one in the Jijiga woreda of Somali Region. In 2004, EMAO acquired three mini-flail demining machines (by purchase) and six Mine Detection Dogs (MDD - on lease with handlers from ArmorGroup) to support manual demining operations.
In 2004, EMAO and Norwegian People's Aid (NPA - the NGO that conducted the ELIS) began discussions concerning assistance to support EMAO's capacity development efforts. The Humanitarian Mine Action Project was agreed in mid-2005, with NPA to focus on MDD and Technical Survey capacities (the latter supplemented with socio-economic survey/analysis, which NPA terms Task Impact Assessment or TIA). With initial funding from Norway and Finland, NPA began operations in October 2005. The project is scheduled to run until the end of 2007.
The project also provided for a mid-term evaluation. Accordingly, in early 2006 NPA invited the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD or the Centre) to conduct the mid-term evaluation. The GICHD recommended expanding the scope of the exercise to cover Ethiopia's mine action programme as a whole, including the contribution of mine action to national development. In July 2006, EMAO, NPA, and the Centre agreed on the broader review as a complement to the evaluation (covering relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, and safety) of the NPA project. The three-week evaluation mission took place in October/November 2006.
(1) More precisely, there are nine regions and two special urban regions (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa).