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Canada aids landmine action

[Mozambique - Angola] Demining in Angola/Mozambique
Selection and demining of a new IDP site remains a priority (UNHCR)

Canada will contribute about US $900,000 for vital landmine clearance in Mozambique and to support landmine victims in Namibia.

The announcement was made in Mozambique during a visit by Susan Whelan, Canada's minister for international cooperation.

"Landmines continue to plague the people of Mozambique and Namibia," Whelan said in a statement. "Landmines perpetuate poverty and are a major obstacle to sustainable development. Canada was the first country to ratify the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines and is committed to helping clear mines and prevent landmine injuries and death around the world."

The Ottawa Convention, launched in 1997, calls for a global end to the stockpiling, production and use of landmines. In July 2002, Angola, emerging from a long internal conflict, became the latest country to ratify the treaty, bringing the number of countries which have ratified it to 125.

Most landmines in Namibia were laid during the period of South African occupation before independence in 1990. More landmines were laid when the war in Angola spilled over Namibia's border. In Mozambique, like Namibia, landmines have impeded development programmes and both countries have seen countless people maimed or killed.

The latest funding pledge, through the Canadian International Development Agency, would support two initiatives.

The Canadian Red Cross Society would receive US $500,000 to work with Red Cross societies in Mozambique and Namibia to increase their capacity for mine-risk awareness activities. It would also help provide better assistance to landmine-accident victims, helping them with transport to orthopaedic centres and to support their reintegration efforts.

Marietjie Naude, an information officer for the Namibian Red Cross Society, said they were delighted with the news.

"A lot of people are helped by the orthopaedic centre in Rundu [in northern Namibia]," she told IRIN. The transport initiative would make a significant difference for people who lost feet or legs through landmines.

The remaining US $400,000 would go to the Canadian Auto Workers who, in partnership with Handicap International, would help clear landmines in Mozambique's Inhambane Province, in the south of the country.

All 10 provinces and 123 out of 128 districts in Mozambique are littered with landmines.

The clearing activities in Inhambane would help to return mine-affected agricultural land and community facilities to productive use. It would also help improve Mozambique's national capacity for demining using a small-scale process which involves communities prioritising areas needed for access, like schools.

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