November 26, 2004

Biggest ever campaign against landmines launched

As the notoriously dangerous rainy season approaches, the Angolan government and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) have launched a national campaign to prevent landmine accidents on the country’s roads.
An estimated six million landmines remain scattered across Angola - devastating weapons used during its 27-year civil war that still wreak havoc after more than two years of peace. So far this year, there has been a mine incident every four days.
The campaign, with the slogan "We Stay on the Right Path", is aimed at drivers and their passengers, seen as particularly at risk because roads are rebuilt and trade and travel routes have been re-opened. It will urge motorists to avoid going off roads to dodge the potholes and churned up mud that inevitably appear during the wet season, a time when landmines also shift in the soil. "Drivers have a responsibility to themselves and their passengers," said Gen Santana Andre Pitra Petroff, director of Angola's National Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH).
The campaign will enlist 540 "mobilisers" - trainers, the national police, the army, motorist groups, the boy scouts and various NGOs - to teach drivers about the dangers of landmines on the roads and encourage passengers to speak out if their transport operator tries to take his own route. The mobilisers will be stationed at strategic entry and exit points of major towns and cities in seven of Angola's most-mined provinces - at bus and truck stops, and police roadblocks. "In all, 30,000 drivers will be reached in the intensive first five days of the campaign, which will then run for six months using TV, radio and a network of organisations to ensure that Angola's rainy season is flooded with messages to deter drivers from taking risks," UNICEF said in a statement.
Landmines have left one in every 415 Angolans disabled. They are a major obstacle to daily life and hinder both economic and social development by denying access to land for agriculture and safe water sources. The campaign is Angola's largest effort against landmines. "Landmines pay no respect to peace accords and so, although Angolans are eagerly turning to the business of nation building, they continue to feel the ferocious force of war," said UNICEF's Representative in Angola, Mario Ferrari. (IRIN)

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