Canada involved in emergency demining in Mozambique

Originally published
March 13, 2000 (3:30 p.m. EST) No. 44

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, National Defence Minister Art Eggleton and International Co-operation Minister Maria Minna today announced that Canada would be contributing $500 000 to enable the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to assess the situation and create public awareness of the dangers arising from the displacement of landmines in Mozambique as a result of flooding.

"We are pleased to be the first country to respond to the United Nations' appeal to the donor community for a Mine Action Response to the floods in Mozambique," said Mr. Axworthy. "Although the extent of the damage is still unknown, our efforts to alleviate human suffering caused by a terrible legacy of anti-personnel mines have become even more urgent given that the flooding affected the most heavily mined and densely populated regions."

Mozambique is one of the world's most heavily mined countries, with between one and two million land mines on its territory. Flooding may have displaced large numbers of land mines, which means that the agencies involved in demining will have to focus their efforts on the areas affected by the flooding.

"We will use the funds to introduce awareness-raising projects in this country that has been heavily affected by the use of land mines," said Minister Minna. "We must see that the flood victims are able to return to their villages without having to fear for their lives."

Three Canadian Forces officers who have been providing technical mine action assistance and training to Mozambique under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) Accelerated Demining Program are currently assisting Mozambique in the analysis and production of maps that will accelerate humanitarian aid efforts and evacuation of flood victims.

"I'm proud of the humanitarian work our Canadians Forces members have done, and continue to do, on behalf of the people of Mozambique," said Mr. Eggleton. "For the past year, they've helped save lives by mapping the mine fields of Mozambique. Now they're contributing to the vital work of mapping the flood plain. Their dedication and professionalism are a credit to the Canadian Forces and to Canada."

UNMAS is responsible for co-ordinating all the activities related to landmines of the various NGOs in the country, the donor countries and the Government of Mozambique.

In addition to the amount announced today, $12 million on mine action initiatives has been invested in Mozambique since 1997.

Funding for this initiative was provided for in the February 2000 federal budget and is therefore built into the existing fiscal framework.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Debora Brown
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
(613) 995-1851

Media Relations Office
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
(613) 995-1874

Randy Mylyk
Office of the Minister of National Defence
(613) 996-3100

Media Liaison Office
Department of National Defence
(613) 996-2353

Duncan Fulton
Office of the Minister for International Co-operation
(819) 997-6919

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency
(819) 953-6534