Fishermen in Mozambique catch much more than expected - displaced farmers on alert

News and Press Release
Originally published
As floodwaters begin to recede in Mozambique an ugly new threat has floated to the surface. Thousands of the 1-2 million landmines known to have been planted during years of civil war, are believed to have floated free and might now be lurking in fields once known to be safe. The risk, as families prepare to return home, is that their farms might now be infested with these deadly weapons.
"No one can be sure of the numbers, but landmines may have been moved 10 or 20 kilometres downstream from mined areas that were located near river banks, said Emmanuel de Casterle, UNDP's Resident Representative in Mozambique. "We have even had reports of fishermen catching landmines in their nets,"

A UNDP-supported Accelerated Demining Programme (ADP) in Mozambique has started to redeploy some of its deminers in response to the threat. In Moamba, near the Incumati river in the south of the country, deminers are already working to secure areas once occupied by a bridge and powerlines. Their job is to probe and scour huge banks of sand and mud, inch by inch, for landmines, before reconstruction can safely begin.

The floods have been a major setback for Mozambique's demining programme which began surveying and marking heavily mined areas in July of 1994. Deminers cleared about 13,000 mines, and more than 5,000 other pieces of unexploded ordnance before the floods. Now, washaways near river banks in particular, have made some of their surveys irrelevant. "We were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Jacky D'Almeida, Director of ADP. "No one knows where the mines could be today. In some of the flooded areas, we will have to start all over again"

UNDP is helping the National Demining Institute to maintain a comprehensive information database, set priorities for clearance, and maintain the quality and safety of mine operations. The ADP has trained 500 national staff in mine clearance techniques, using metal detectors and dogs that are trained to sniff out explosives.