Ania Kudarewska spent 6 years in Angola working mostly in the education sector, orthopaedic centres and landmine survivors assistance. Angola is one of the most mined countries in the world. Ania Kudarewska works now as a researcher for Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. In April she went to Angola to make new research. Here is the interview with her.
Photo: Halo Trust Emergency evacuation and first aid training, Huambo, Angola, 2009,
How did you start to work with landmines topic?
At the beginning I worked in Angola in education. I was a headmaster of Teacher's Training Collage. Two of my students were wearing prosthesis. I knew that there were a lot of mines because we were very restriced where we could move. But unless you meet someone who survived mine accident you don't really realize what does it mean. Then I started to work for ortophedic centres – for organisations that support land mine victimes. Then I really got close to the problem.
The Angolan Civil War began in Angola after the end of the war for independence from Portugal in 1975. The war featured conflict between two primary Angolan factions, the communist MPLA and the anti-communist UNITA. A third movement, the FLEC, an association of separatist militant groups, fought for the independence of Cabinda.
By the time the 27-year war was formally brought to an end in 2002, an estimated 500,000 people had been killed. The Angolan Civil War was one of the largest, longest, and most prominent armed conflicts of the Cold War. Both the Soviet Union and the U.S. considered it critical to the global balance of power and to the outcome of the Cold War.
What are the sides effects of the existens of landmines?
"After the war finished and IDPs or refugees from Kongo or Zambia started to retur home, they wanted to go back to their villages but there were landmine so they couldn't cultivate their land. Also a lot of land mines where placed around bridges and other water sources. It's difficult to go back to a normal life when you cannot go for a water or grow vegetables".
"The war is finished but people are still dying"
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Why the numbers are so high according to Angolan government?
The numbers exist since 2000. It's the time where governmental sources started to appear. That time there was a lit of international NGOs focused on landmine-survivors aid. There were a lot of orthopaedic centres where they could get a prosthesis. The numbers were so high to attract more money, so the donors could feel that there is really a huge need.
How much time Angola will need for full clearance?
To full clearance... You still find mines in Poland....
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Are the mined areas now marked?
From 2004 till 2007 there was a big research done by Syrvey Action Centre. They managed to mark most of the mined areas on the map. So other NGOs could work on that. They were divided into three groups: high risk, middle risk and low risk. The high risk areas where marked and some of them are already demined. Now the work is done on medium and low risk areas. The situation is more or less under control. However people in villiages still can show where the „new” landmines are.
What is the biggest challenge for donors in Angola?
Angola is a very rich country. There is plenty of oil and diamonds. The revenue of the government is quite high comparing to other countries that receive development or humanitarian aid. The problem is the political situation in Angola, that the money is not actually spend for the real development, I mean social development. There's a lot of investments that government supports and that's for infrastructure. But it seems that the government it's not much interested in education and health of the poorest people living in the poor areas. That's the problem for donors – how to balance between what the government wants and what we think that people really need.
What Poland can offer to Angola and why Angola is priority country for Poland?
"It's around 100 thousands dollars per year, which is really nothing for a country with as big budget as Angola’s".
"Poland wants be a close where the resources are".
"It's based on the old cooperation which exsisted between Poland and Angola when both Poland and Angola were socialism countries".
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Poland is not the state party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.
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IS YOUR COUNTRY A STATE PARTY OF Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction?
The Republic of Angola acknowledged using antipersonnel mines as a signatory to the Mine Ban Treaty from December 1997 to April 2002. Angola became a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty on 1 January 2003. Angola completed destruction of its stockpile of 88,117 antipersonnel mines in December 2006. As of 2007, it reported retaining 2,512 mines for training purposes.
Landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Angola are the legacy of four decades of armed conflict which ended in 2002. Although mine clearance began in 1994 during the UN Angola Verification Mission, a national baseline of the extent of the problem was not known until a Landmine Impact Survey was completed in 2005. In 2008, the Angolan mine action program included national and international demining operators working in all 18 provinces of the country.
Since April 2002, UNDP has provided support to develop the capacities of the Inter-sectoral Commission on Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH), the national mine action coordination body, and the National Demining Institute (INAD), the government’s operational arm for mine action. Significant problems in coordination of the mine action program and reporting on its achievements have persisted, largely as a result of insufficient government commitment to mine action. As of June 2009, it looked unlikely that Angola would meet its January 2013 Article 5 deadline for clearance of mined areas.
There is no complete and reliable set of casualty data in Angola, but between 2000 and 2008 Landmine Monitor identified at least 2,664 casualties (no data was available for 1999). Total casualty estimates run as high as 80,000.
Risk education (RE) has been conducted since 1999 by more than 15 organizations, including UNICEF, international and national NGOs, the ICRC and INAD, and through the mass media and schools, coordinated by CNIDAH. Since 1999, emergency RE has gradually moved to a more community-based approach focusing on risk reduction. In 2006, a development approach using participatory methods was introduced. By the end of 2008, the level of RE had decreased significantly, becoming inadequate.
While overall services for mine/ERW survivors improved after the end of the conflict in 2002, services for survivors and other persons with disabilities remained limited as of 2009. In some sectors, deterioration has been noted since 2005. As part of its commitment to the Nairobi Action Plan 2005−2009, Angola created a victim assistance plan, but it remained largely unimplemented due to a lack of funds and capacity.
FOR POLISH READERS MY INTERVIEW WITH ANIA HERE.
*music in background of the interview: Bonobo "Recurring"