International Day for Mine Awareness 2011 - Children and the explosive remnants of war in Mozambique

News and Press Release
Originally published

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 4 April 2011 – Mozambique endured a long civil war from 1977 to 1992, which resulted in the killing of up to a million people and left behind a devastating legacy of landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Today, ERWs still pose a considerable challenge to sustainable development and remain a threat to human security in many of the country's affected districts.

The exact level of mine contamination was long unknown, although the impact on some communities was serious, with high death and injury rates and the destruction of social and economic infrastructure. In 2007 and 2008, a baseline assessment of the remaining suspected hazardous areas was conducted in the central and southern provinces of Mozambique. It indicated that all these areas were contaminated, with a total of 12 millions square metres of land affected.

In addition, landmines had also been found along 200 kilometers of the border with Zimbabwe and in a belt around the Cahora Bassa dam. In the south, about 200 electricity pylons, stretching across 80 kilometers from the South African border town of Komatieport to the high-density suburbs of Maputo, were added to the national database by the National Demining Institue (IND).

Today, the four northern provinces of Niassa, Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Zambezia are currently undergoing a verification process following the end of demining operations; whereas the remaining provinces of Tete, Manica, Sofala, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo are expected to be cleared of mines before the 2014 deadline established under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty (APMBT).

Mozambique's Action Plan for the Reduction of Poverty (PARPA) has highlighted mine action as one of the key issues negatively affecting the country's development. With mines still in the ground it is not possible to properly carry out development initiatives and move forward: the unsafe land cannot be used for agriculture or other economic activities.

Children are among the populations most vulnerable to land mines. They constitute a significant group of those falling victim to explosive remnants of war. Reports indicate that children are often injured or killed when their daily activities bring them in contact with ERWs: as they walk to school, play or help in the fields. While adults are familiar with landmines, understand the danger and avoid mined areas, children are more likely to enter restricted areas. In Mozambique in 2008, four of the seven mine casualties were children who were playing in known contaminated areas.

Evidence shows that ERWs, usually found on the surface and often of interest to children, are a cause of child casualties. Children are often more vulnerable to ERWs present in or near a community as they might be unaware of the danger or distracted while playing. In addition, children, sometimes unaware of what the dangerous artifact they have discovered actually is, might bring the object into the home or school – potentially causing more casualties. Worldwide, children account for nearly 30 per cent of all victims of landmines.

Between 2008 and 2010, the Mozambican Government through the National Demining Institute (IND), humanitarian demining organizations and other NGOs have conducted 303 mine removal sessions, which have benefited around 61,281 people in 237 mine-affected communities. The UN continues to support demining efforts in Mozambique through the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal or Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: