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Angola is a country that has have suffered through wars for nearly 40 years. It is not surprising then, that infrastructure in Angola has taken a massive hit. Yet, things are looking to improve for Angola as they are beginning to rebuild its infrastructure throughout the country.

In 2014, infrastructure was examined and ranked among 148 different countries. Angola was ranked 148th. That means that out of all the countries that were evaluated, Angola was ranked the worst in infrastructure.

War is a major factor as to why infrastructure is so poor in Angola. During the war, millions of landmines were planted across the country. These landmines damaged roads and made it extremely dangerous, even fatal, to travel in the country. Even after the war ended, there were countless of unaccounted landmines that posed a grave threat to the citizens of Angola. There is currently a major effort to remove all the landmines in the country by 2040. With landmine extraction underway, infrastructure in Angola is looking to improve.

There are a number of projects that Angola is implementing to better their infrastructure. One of the biggest projects is the Laúca dam, that is near completion. The dam is the biggest in the country and will produce enough electricity to be able to provide eight million citizens electricity to their homes. This dam will also improve the economy, as businesses will increase within the region.

Roadwork is also underway in Angola. With the current situation of roads, they are not used to their potential capacity. To help fix this problem, 22.6 billion dollars will be put aside during 2013 to 2025 to help not only build new roads, but to repair older roads as well. As roads are built and repaired, people and goods will become more connected, increasing the flow of trade, and therefore money spent in the country.

The continuous wars caused the infrastructure in Angola to suffer. Now that the war has ceased, Angola can begin rebuilding its infrastructure. There are many promising projects that not only help to rebuild the infrastructure within the country, but bring in GDP for Angola.

– Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr

Facts About LandminesLandmines are any type of container of explosive material than can be triggered when it comes into contact with a person or a vehicle. The explosive blast or fragments of a landmine are intended to incapacitate a person or vehicle.

10 Facts about Landmines:

  1. Landmines are generally buried 6 inches (15 centimeters) under the surface or simply laid above ground. Buried landmines can remain active for more than 50 years.
  2. Landmines come in two categories, anti-personnel landmines and anti-tank landmines. An anti-personnel landmine is designed to injure or kill a person, while an anti-tank landmine is designed to incapacitate tanks or other vehicles.
  3. Landmines were first created during World War I. While the original mines were anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines were developed to prevent enemy forces from reusing or removing anti-tank mines.
  4. The random dissemination of landmines began in the 1960s. The U.S. dropped thousands of mines by plane during its nine-year bombing campaign of Laos.
  5. There are an estimated 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground and another 250 million stockpiled across the world today. About 5 to 10 million mines are produced each year.
  6. The countries most affected by landmines are Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq, China, Egypt and Laos. Mines are also a serious problem in Bosnia, Croatia, Georgia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan.
  7. One person is killed by a landmine every 15 minutes. About 70 people are killed by a landmine every day. 26,000 people a year become landmine victims. A total of over one million people have been killed or maimed by landmines.
  8. The cost of removing all currently existing mines would be $50-$100 billion. Organizations like Minesweepers are dedicated to removing landmines across the globe. Overall, mine removal operations have resulted in the destruction of more than 2.2 million anti-personnel mines and 250,000 anti-tank mines.
  9. Landmines deprive some of the poorest people on Earth access to arable land, markets, schools, work and water. The existence of landmines can also prevent reconstruction, new development and the delivery of aid.
  10. Landmines place a burden on the health systems of developing countries. People hurt by mines need more antibiotics and need to stay in the hospital longer than other patients.

Landmines can be hard to detect and are often prevalent in areas decimated by war. This makes their existence especially dangerous to the poor and to refugees. While these facts about landmines can be distressing, great work by organizations like Minesweepers helps make environments less dangerous and the lives of the global poor safer.

Brock Hall

Photo: Flickr

MAG America
People know that war leaves scars, on bodies, minds, families and homes. Those affected live with the destruction, adapting to the best of their ability, and attempt to go on with their lives. While international support in the wake of conflict is great, little thought is given to the scars left behind in war zones.

When peace is brokered, troops leave behind bullets, elaborately packaged, carefully hidden explosives and yet-to-be-detonated fireworks of the military grade variety. Farmers fear working their fields. The building of roads, schools and water lines is halted indefinitely. Economic recovery is nearly impossible, at least until the threats are eliminated.

The Mines Advisory Group, or the MAG, has tasked itself with removing such lingering threats. Since 1989, MAG America employees have provided extensive training to volunteers living in post-war zones. Teams clear landmines and explosive weapons that did not go off when fired, and remove abandoned weapons, strategizing to prevent their proliferation.

To protect communities where mine contamination and weapons surpluses remain, the MAG offers programs that teach people how to recognize threats, what areas to avoid and emergency procedures. The MAG employs 2,400 people in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The 2,400 individuals make up about 90 percent of the MAG staff. Most are from severely underprivileged communities. Not only do these individuals benefit from the steady salary, they additionally receive professional training as mine destruction specialists, educators, community liaison specialists and medics.

The MAG is currently working to secure military storage in El Salvador, where access to small arms has fueled the second highest homicide rate in the world. Land clearing operations in Lebanon are ongoing, as they are in Iraq. The organization is aiding seven nations in Africa and four nations in Southeast Asia.

Manchester is home to the MAG’s international operations, while MAG America is based in Washington, D.C. More volunteers and staffers are needed, but the MAG recommends three ways to join its cause: become a “team driver” by building your own awareness, a “medic” by raising awareness in your community or a “virtual deminer” by fundraising or donating.

– Olivia Kostreva

Sources: MAG 1, MAG 2, MAG 3, MAG 4, Idealist
Sources: MAG

Landmines
Historically, the widespread use of landmines as tools of war has not always been favorable, both for countries that use landmines and the countries against which landmines are used. The anti-personnel landmines employed by the American military are, by definition, undiscriminating–their deployment can cause casualties not just for the enemy, but also for unsuspecting American soldiers who stumble upon them.

Furthermore, scattering these explosive devices across what are often unfamiliar swaths of land can restrict the speed and mobility of military units. Because these devices can lie inactive for decades before being triggered, they are dangerous even in regions where they have not recently been laid. More than 25,000 people die per year after accidentally activating “leftover landmines.”

That being said, though these devices can pose several disadvantages, they can be used effectively in combat zones as tools of defense rather than attack. Landmines, which are both easy to carry and obscure, have been employed successfully by United States troops in several recent conflicts, most notably the Persian Gulf War. Many military experts consider any drawbacks the result of misuse of landmines, not of the actual landmines themselves.

Last month, the U.S. defended its continued use of anti-personnel landmines, despite a political climate in which they have become increasingly unpopular. Over 160 nations have joined the Ottawa Convention, a treaty banning the creation and deployment of mines, since its enactment in 1999, but the U.S. again refused to enter the Convention at a review conference held in Maputo, Mozambique in June.

Instead, U.S. officials vowed not to create or purchase anti-personnel landmines; a promise critics have decried as meaningless and proponents have called strategic as American forces are already estimated to own up to 13 million of the devices and therefore have little need to produce more. The U.S. hinted that it might join the Ottawa Convention in the future, contingent on its military finding a way to “mitigate the risks associated with the loss of anti-personnel landmines.”

Whether the U.S. will follow through and eventually enter into the Ottawa Convention is anyone’s best guess, but one thing is certain: the debate over the use of anti-personnel landmines will continue.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: ICRC, The World Post, UN, New York Times
Photo: PDKI

harry-halo_pakistan_horn_of_africa_global_poverty_halo_trust_usaid_international_aid__opt

Foreign aid organizations are often thought of as those that provide supplies of food, water, and medicine to those around the world who need it. The HALO Trust, however, was set up to improve the process of relief as well as defend civilians. The HALO Trust was formed in March 1988 in order to provide assistance to those in areas of war (Pakistan and the Horn of Africa) that were scattered with anti-personnel landmines.

Since 1988, the HALO staff in Afghanistan has grown to over 3,600, and has cleared over 700,000 mines from fields and stockpiles. HALO’s programs have reached many other countries as well such as Cambodia, Mozambique, Chechnya, Georgia, and more recently Sri Lanka and Colombia. As the “world’s oldest and largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization”, HALO is leading the way in making war zones safe for civilians and for transport of goods and services through trade. Their policy of “Road Threat Reduction” has since cleared 5,196 km of anti-tank mines off of roads in Angola.

HALO Trust also supports links between their usual mine clearance and development initiatives. Because these mines make it more difficult for development actors to visit and aid them, they are especially in need of help rebuilding their villages. First, however, mines need to be cleared in order to have safe ways to raise livestock and prevent killing or maiming of civilians. Their policy is to link development to demining, rather than demining to development.

While demining is their major effort, they also train their promoted staff as paramedics in order to make comprehensive medical knowledge a part of every team. Their funds are allocated to certain teams for a certain period of time as well as being spent on equipment and other expenses. Each donor ends up knowing exactly what they funded in terms of mines destroyed, amount of land cleared, and number of people that have benefited. Administration salaries are paid with an extra administration charge given to institutional donors.

Overall, the organization is a great help to those living in war zones, and continues to clear mines and work across the world to ensure the safety of civilians.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: HALO Trust
Photo: Telegraph