It’s been 19 years since Angola’s civil war ended, but still the country is riddled with landmines, which continue to devastate the lives of ordinary people. This month, work started in Cuando Cubango Province in the south, to rid the area of 153 minefields. It would not be possible for HALO to do their work without MAF pilots like Marijn Goud…
This month, MAF’s Marijn Goud flew the HALO team to Jamba Airport in Cuando Cubango to evaluate suspected minefields across the province.
HALO estimates that it will take five years to completely clear this area including two potential minefields either side of Jamba Airport.
Marijn Goud is quick to reassure us that where MAF lands in Jamba is completely safe:
‘Just to clarify, the airstrip is safe! Where we land is a strip of 8 to 10,000 feet – very long for us, so landing here safely is definitely not an issue.’
A landmine exploded the day before MAF arrived
‘Preventing future deaths - that’s our vision, which we will see through to the end.’
Hoseas Elevoco, HALO’s Operations Manager
Hoseas Elevoco, HALO’s Operations Manager and MAF passenger, explains the scope of the work:
'We came to Jamba to re-evaluate several known minefields found by HALO back in 2005. We need to find out what the actual status of these mines are and gather information about accidents that have happened between 2005 and 2021.'
‘We were informed by the authorities about an accident that happened the day before we arrived in Jamba. Three brothers from the same family tried to make a fire due to the cold but something exploded - two were wounded and one unfortunately lost his life.
‘We also heard about another accident last month. Three people picked up some explosive ordnance in an area that’s currently being inspected by my colleagues. It could be a weapon or ammunition storage area, we don’t know, but we will wait for more information so we can finish this issue here in Jamba.’
HALO is also working closely with Angola’s military who recently found a stash of explosives.
Take a trip with MAF Pilot Marijn Goud as he accompanies HALO staff around Jamba – all in a day’s work:
An opportunity to inspect the runway
Whilst on the ground – under the watchful eye of HALO’s experienced staff - Marijn has the opportunity to inspect Jamba’s airstrip:
‘There’s a bit we haven’t used so far as we’ve always used the other side, but hey there’s another couple of thousand feet, which we might be able to use too. There's some pretty high grass, so we need to see how usable this end is.
‘There’s a barrier, which shows that that side of the runway has some holes, so we can’t obviously use it past that point. Bushes and high grass clearly aren’t usable either – it hasn’t been cut back. There could be all sorts of animals in the grass – it’s not very safe. We can’t land here.’
Preventing future deaths
Marijn catches up with Hoseas before flying the team back to base camp. Hoseas is pleased with how the evaluation went:
‘We found out about an area with lots of projectiles, which will be a task for our Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team. They will thoroughly survey the area and eventually send a team to destroy all those ordnances laying around.
‘That will prevent future deaths - that’s our vision, which we will see through to the end.’
During Angola’s 27-year civil war, HALO estimates that 10 million landmines were laid all over the country of which they have removed nearly 100,000.
HALO’s work is far from over.
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