The HALO Trust, an NGO is working in conjunction with the Zimbabwe National Army Demining operation to remove landmines still buried along the north-eastern Zimbabwe border with Mozambique. The landmines in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) date back to the Liberation War of the 1970s when Rhodesian forces laid hundreds of kilometres of barrier minefields along borders with Zambia and Mozambique, to prevent insurgents from moving in and out of the country for training and re-supply. Anti-personnel mines were initially laid in very dense belts (reportedly 5,500 mines per kilometre of frontage) to form a cordon sanitaire. Later, a second belt of directional fragmentation mines guarded by anti-personnel mines were also laid inland of the cordon sanitaire.
There are very dense, unfenced minefields close to houses, schools and clinics and access to agricultural land is denied to small scale farmers. Livestock are killed weekly and communities are separated from their primary water sources. It is estimated that over 1,550 people have lost their lives or been injured by mines since the war. The demining work in Zimbabwe is focused in the North East where HALO’s own survey recorded 187 minefields with a combined frontage of 425km and a total contaminated area of 28km². This affects over 75,000 people across eighty-seven communities on the Zimbabwe side of the border. There have been over 120,000 cattle accidents across the whole frontage since 1980. With each animal worth around $300 that equates to a loss of more than $1,000,000 per annum.
ACE Air and Ambulance have stationed 2 combat-trained paramedics on site and on standby to give immediate medical treatment to any of the 150 staff, who mostly come from mine affected communities. Currently only manual deminers are being used, clearing approximately 500 mines and 1km of frontage per month. The ACE team have been on site for a month and there have been no casualties as yet, but the operation is set to take many more years to make the area safe.