- Angola: Helping Conflict-Affected Communities to Escape Poverty
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Along with thousands of other Angolans, 48-year-old Jurindo Hishika, his wife, and their five children fled his homeland during the last years of his country’s civil war.
Hailing from Angola’s eastern Moxico province, Mr. Hishika and his family were plagued by violence during the civil war that engulfed much of the country. Much of the heavy fighting between rebel group UNITA and Angolan government forces erupted in that region during UNITA’s last stand. For their own safety, Mr. Hishika and his family had to flee the country.
In 2002, close to Chifoio village in Moxico, UNITA’s leader Jonas Savimbi was killed, eventually leading to the end of Angola’s devastating civil war.
Eager to restart their lives, Mr. Hishika and his family were finally able to leave the Zambian refugee camp and return home. However, when they returned to their village, they found the area heavily contaminated by deadly landmines.
The problem of landmines and UXO pose a lethal barrier to development in many countries throughout the world. In Angola, one of the most heavily landmine-contaminated countries in the world, the problem is extreme.
A survey conducted in 2007 shows that an estimated 2.4 million Angolans are still at-risk from landmines.
The UNHCR’s official repatriation program saw more than half a million Angolans return to their country in nine years. More than half of these people returned to Moxico province, the scene for much of the heaviest fighting. Now this region is also the most heavily contaminated with landmines.
Throughout the region, people like Mr. Hishika began trying to rebuild their lives in extremely dangerous conditions.
MAG aims to improve development prospects for as many Angolans as possible, enabling them to use all the tools at their disposal to improve their own socio-economic prospects, and rebuild the livelihoods they lost during the civil war.
One of the first steps to achieving this was to focus on clearing key roads in Moxico. Roads are vital for increased trade, safe return of refugees from across Angola’s borders, and improved infrastructure. In 2008, MAG’s clearance teams were busy working on clearing one of the main routes through the province when they arrived at Chifoio, about 180 kilometers from the town of Luena. Immediately, the residents of Chifoio asked MAG to clear their land as well.
People like Mr. Hishika and his family, who resettled in Chifoio, were fearful to expand their usage of the land, as they had seen many people killed by landmines.
MAG prioritized the village for urgent clearance, first ensuring Mr. Hishika’s house and its immediate surroundings were cleared. He remembers the impact this had:
“The clearance has allowed us to return to our homes and to begin rebuilding our lives after so many years of absence. Someone from the village who was digging earth to make bricks for building a house found two landmines so we know there was danger.”
"We are safe in our village now, but we are still afraid to move outside because of landmines. We are very impatient that MAG returns and clears the areas surrounding the village.”
Mr. Hishika’s request to clear land surrounding the village distinctly illustrates how landmines and other dangerous remnants of conflict directly prevent a community's development. “When the area around Chifoio is cleared, we want to develop agriculture and build good houses,” he said. “There are people from Luena who want to come and develop agriculture here because it is a very good place for cultivating, but they cannot because of landmines,” he added.
Often, it is not the lack of fertile land, trade opportunities or local authority support that prevents communities in conflict-affected areas from escaping poverty. Unfortunatey, in place like Angola, the biggest obstacle to development continues to be the presence of landmines or other UXO.
|MAG would like to express its thanks to the following donors to its Angola programme: Chevron Oil - Angola; UK Department for International Development (DFID) / UKaid; Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, US Department of State; Unicorn Grocery.|