Playing outside, walking to school, or traveling to visit family is no longer a dangerous endeavor for people living Mozambique, where deadly land mines that once marred thousands of acres of land have finally been eradicated.
The HALO Trust, a British charity, said Thursday that since 1993, it has cleared more than 171,000 landmines from 1,100 minefields across the country.
Landmines were first planted in the 1960s during a war with independence from Portugal, which was followed by a civil war. They were placed around dams and railroads, usually about five centimeters underground.
The government does not know how many people have been killed or injured by landmines in Mozambique, but Human Rights Watch estimates 8,000 amputees have received medical treatment and thousands more have been killed or did not seek help
“This is a proud day for Mozambique,” Alberto Augusto, Director of the Mozambique Institute for Demining, said in statement. “Ridding our country of landmines was tremendously difficult, but the bravery and determination of our demining teams proves to the world that it is possible for countries to become mine free.”
Approximately 10,900 Mozambicans have been killed or injured by land mines, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
With financial assistance from a host of Western countries, workers from Halo Trust arrived on the scene in 1993. Using massive armored tanks and manual detectors, the U.K.-based charity cleared 171,000 landmines in 1,100 minefields from the southern African country, detonating the last known mine last month.
Land mines have hindered economic development in Mozambique. Of its 26 million residents, more than half live below the poverty line, according to the latest figures from the World Bank.
The final region cleared of mines houses a railway line that carries goods from Mozambique into Zimbabwe. The track and infrastructure has been neglected since the 1990s, with workers afraid to get too close. Now, the railway line is getting some much-needed upgrades, and will soon be able to transport heavier loads into other countries. Without fear of triggering mines, residents can start cultivating land that was once off limits, planting crops and allowing livestock to graze.
As Mozambique celebrates this major accomplishment, workers at Halo Trust want the world to know there work isn’t done. As many as 60 other countries—including Afghanistan, Angola, and Cambodia—still have active land mines that kill or injure 4,000 people annually.