While we were working in Angola a few years ago, we had friends who worked with the Halo Trust clearing landmines all over Angola. At that time (2006) there were estimated to be about 17 million of the horrible things lurking in the ground.
We were invited to visit them at their upcountry headquarters in a small town called Huambo, which had suffered very badly during the civil war, so was full of shot up buildings, burnt out tanks in back yards and all the remains of a vicious war, which after a bit of time in Angola, we were becoming all too familiar with sadly.
They decided to first take us to a large minefield that they were busy clearing on the edge of a small village nearby, so off we went to see our first minefield in the flesh as it were. When we got there we were taken to the edge of the village, where the local school had its playground and the guy in charge pointed to the grass field beside the kid’s playground and told us matter of factly that that was the minefield. Simply a large area of grass beside the beaten earth of the playground… No form of separation, walls, fences, ditches.. nothing, simply an innocent looking grassy area.
This was when we understood that actually a minefield is simply a chunk of land which happens to have landmines buried in it…. In no way special or dangerous looking. As a friend from the Halo Trust put it, a landmine is the Beast that doesn’t bark – but sure as hell can and does bite!
The thing that got me at that moment was the realisation that the kids at the school played football and ran around as kids do, right on the edge of a minefield, with no form of barrier to prevent them running into the minefield.