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Friday, January 29, 1999 Published at 10:07 GMT

Landmines: War's deadly legacy

Vast areas of Angolan territory have been rendered unusable by mines

By BBC News Online's Justin Pearce

Even an immediate ceasefire in Angola would do nothing to rid the country of one of its deadliest weapons: the landmines which have accumulated during decades of civil war.

Angola has the greatest concentration of landmines in the world, according to some estimates. Some 15m mines are thought to be scattered through the country, rendering a third of Angolan territory unusable.

The effect of the landmines is exacerbated by Angola's ongoing state of war. Their presence has prevented rural refugees from returning home and resuming their lives as farmers.

[ image:  ]
The large number of displaced people in the country makes it all the easier for people to stumble onto mines as they move around in unfamiliar territory.

Some 70,000 Angolans are believed to have lost limbs as a result of landmine explosions.

The cost of prosthetic limbs is far beyond the means of most Angolans. Most of the explosions take place in rural areas from where it may take days to reach medical facilities.

[ image: Displaced people in unfamiliar territory are at particular risk]
Displaced people in unfamiliar territory are at particular risk
Aside from the personal consequences, the deaths, injuries and displacement caused by landmines have seriously retarded Angola's efforts to rebuild its economy.

International diplomatic efforts against landmines have had some success in recent years, with over 100 countries signing or acceding to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and On their Destruction (also known as the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty).

This comprehensive treaty prohibits the use of landmines and requires a commitment to destroying mine stockpiles.

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Special report: The Angolan conflict

Fuelling the war: Diamonds and oil

Angola: The roots of conflict

Landmines: War's deadly legacy