The United States is a leader in supporting the clearance of dangerous remnants of war all over the world. Since 1993, we have invested more than 2.6 billion dollars to clear or destroy landmines, unexploded ordnance, and other dangerous conventional weapons and munitions. In doing so, we are helping post-conflict communities to recover and to rebuild.
One of our success stories is Zimbabwe’s Burma Valley. Located on Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique, Burma Valley is a hot, low-lying area where generation after generation of farmers planted tobacco and grew fruit trees. But due to its strategic position, in the 1970s, during Zimbabwe’s war of liberation, thousands upon thousands of landmines were sown throughout the area, to prevent cross-border raids by guerilla fighters. By the time the war ended in 1980, Zimbabwe was peppered with very dense, unfenced minefields. Even to this day, Zimbabwe is one of the most highly mine-impacted countries in the world.
Left-over landmines and unexploded munitions stand in the way of post-conflict stabilization and inhibit long-term development. They render thousands of acres of land unusable and destabilize communities, and the remnants of war continue to claim new victims. Since 1980, more than 1,500 Zimbabwean people and 120,000 livestock have been killed in landmine accidents. Indeed, in some districts, the cattle are trained to move to pasture in a single file to minimize their exposure to anti-personnel landmines.
One of the organizations working to clear landmines in Zimbabwe is Norwegian People’s Aid. With support and funding provided by the United States, this group surveyed Burma Valley and cleared the landmines, completing operations in 2015. This effort to help Zimbabwe safely clear landmines and unexploded munitions has made a life-changing difference for area residents. The farmers have moved back, rebuilding homes and cattle corrals, and tilling and planting the recently-demined fields.
Over the last four years, the United States has provided more than 7.6 million dollars for humanitarian demining in Zimbabwe, 3 million of it in 2016 alone.
The United States is investing in mine and explosives clearance because by doing so, we not only protect civilians from explosive remnants of war, but we also enable lasting peace.