For nearly half a century, Zimbabwe has been dealing with the deadliest legacy of war — landmines. Between 1970 and 1980, during Zimbabwe’s war for independence, hundreds of thousands, by some estimates even over a million of these indiscriminate killers were sown along Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique to prevent cross-border raids into Zimbabwe by guerilla fighters.
By the time the war ended in 1980, Zimbabwe was peppered with very dense, unfenced minefields, about 240 linear kilometers of them. Even to this day, Zimbabwe is one of the most highly mine-impacted countries in the world, its danger zone booby-trapped with as many as 5,500 landmines per linear kilometer.
Since 1980, more than 1,500 Zimbabwean people and 120,000 livestock have been killed in landmine accidents. Nonetheless, the need for arable land is so great in this area that farmers and pastorals have attempted to clear fields and pastures of landmines on their own. And still people die in landmine explosions, even as they go about their daily work.
Over the years, the United States, along with numerous NGOs and governments, has sponsored mine-clearance operations in Zimbabwe. Through the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, a part of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the United States government has provided more than $7.6 million for humanitarian demining in Zimbabwe just since 2012.
One of the organizations sponsored by the United States for this work is the HALO Trust, a British - American non-profit, non-governmental organization which removes war materiel in post-conflict areas. Under U.S. sponsorship, the HALO Trust, is demining the minefields in northeastern Zimbabwe. Between 2013 and the end of 2015, the HALO Trust has removed over 10,000 landmines in Zimbabwe.
And as the land is cleared of danger, the people move back to till and plant long-abandoned fields and to graze their cattle. They rebuild homes and cattle corrals. At last, they can collect firewood in the forest or water from a spring, take their produce to the market and send their children to school without fear.
In Zimbabwe, assistance from the United States has made a tangible difference in enabling local communities to successfully make a living on their own land.