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MRead field visit to The HALO Trust in Southern Angola – February 2024

As part of developing the unique sensor technology with MRead Ltd and CSIRO, we were invited by The HALO Trust to visit the minefields in southern Angola, specifically in the Menongue / Cuito Cuanavale region, which was the site of intense conflict during the Angola Civil War from 1975 until the peace agreement in 2002.

March 20, 2024

Angola is the most heavily mined area in Africa and directly and tragically impacts the local communities. The work done by The HALO Trust in Southern Angola and other NGOs prevents death and injury and enables the local communities to kick-start their lives.

By 2002, when the MPLA achieved victory, between 500,000 and 800,000 people had lost their lives, and over a million had been internally displaced. Nearly 70,000 Angolans had become amputees due to landmines. Since 1994 HALO has cleared over 1,000 minefields and destroyed 98,000 mines in Angola. However, Angola remains the most heavily mined area inAfrica and 580 minefields are waiting to be cleared, of which 180 are just in Kuando Kubango province alone, and more minefields continue to be found.

I had the privilege of spending time with The HALO Trust team in Cuito Cuanavale, led by HALO Trust Research and Development Officer Ronan Shenhav and Operations Manager Valdermar Fernandez. The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was the site of fierce fighting in the biggest tank battle since World War 2. We visited several minefields to enable me to gain a better understanding of the daily threats faced by deminers and the rigorous training system that supports them in the field. Witnessing the supervisors, section commanders, and deminers at work was truly impressive. The harsh environment and terrain highlight the remarkable work that deminers undertake every day, whether facing the searing heat in Angola and Cambodia or the bitter cold inUkraine.

My visit, building upon the experience we gained during our Cambodia field visit last year, has significantly has contributed to the development of our MRead sensor technology, transforming it from a concept into a prototype handheld detector. Understanding the real-world demining requirements and challenges faced by deminers is crucial to our development process – size, weight and power are key.

The MRead team's visit to Angola also provided us with first hand insights into the extraordinary work of The HALO Trust. We are deeply grateful to all HALO staff who generously shared their time and knowledge, answering my numerous questions throughout the week and for their support and guidance.

We are deeply inspired by the work of Angolan deminers and the efforts of The HALO Trust and other NGOs in helping local communities return to normality in places like Somalia, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine. Unfortunately, the list of war-affected and mine-contaminated countries continues along with the casualties, as shown by the current conflict in Gaza.

We are very much looking forward to continuing to develop our partnership with The HALO Trust in the coming months.

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