CHAD: Clearing mines from an important trade route
MAG is clearing a key trade route in northern Chad that has been inaccessible for more than 20 years due to landmines.
The Wadi Chirke area, between the towns of Fada and Kiké, is littered with anti-personnel and anti-tank mines laid by occupation forces during the war with Libya in the 1980s.
Seven people have been reported killed and six injured by mines in the Fada area alone within the last decade.
And it is possible there have been even more accidents that have not been reported in isolated places. Grazing livestock is also at risk.
The contamination has blocked usage of the road, and this has stifled trade and development in the region as vehicles have been forced to take detours of hundreds of kilometers.
The once bustling market town of Fada, approximately 15km from the minefield, is struggling economically, as the larger food and goods providers have stopped passing through due to fear of the mines.
While it is situated at a hub that originates in Libya and allows the transportation of food and fuel to the towns of Kalait, Abeché, Wadi Doum and Faya Largeau, Fada now relies upon a single provider of goods that brings in basic products once a month.
Several different mine action organizations have worked in the area over the last 10 years, beginning clearance and marking the dangerous areas, but the vastness of Wadi Chirke means that large amounts of contamination still remain.
MAG began work here in November and, following careful ssessment of the whole site, now has three teams carrying out manual clearance on different sections of the minefield.
Deep sand in many parts means that deminers have to go over each square meter of land multiple times, with scorpions, snakes, sandstorms and temperatures of over 40ºc in peak season to contend.
It is difficult, but hugely valuable, work.
|Photo by Katie Allen of MAG|