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Guinea Bissau, located on the West Coast of Africa, was a Portuguese colony for 525 years until a War of Independence from 1962 to 1974. The War of Independence left a considerable unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem countrywide, which was further compounded and complicated by civil war from 1998 to 1999.
The years of conflict have taken their toll on Guinea Bissau, leaving it one of the poorest countries in the world with little infra-structure or industry to sustain its growing population. Guinea Bissau ranks lowly at 172 of the 177 countries on the UN Human Development Index 2004, whilst the World Bank Country Brief 2006 claims that more than two thirds of the population lives under the poverty line.
The population of the capital Bissau is dense and totals some 450,000, or 30% of the total population of Guinea Bissau. As well as the return of those that fled to the Interior during the Civil War, the extreme poverty in rural Guinea Bissau drives those to the capital seeking income.
In December 2005 Cleared Ground Demining was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to conduct an assessment of the UXO Problem within Guinea Bissau. This assessment led to DFID’s continued funding of the UNDP mine action activities in Guinea Bissau, and funding for Cleared Ground from the Norwegian Government to develop an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Battle Area Clearance (BAC) capacity within the local demining NGO LUTCAM.
LUTCAM (Lutamos Todos Contra As Minas – ‘Our common fight against mines’) was formed in February 2003, with financial and technical assistance from the UNDP. Now with over 100 personnel, 40% who are female, LUTCAM signed a Partnership Agreement with Cleared Ground Demining in 2006 in recognition that they needed to broaden their skills base from only demining to EOD to be able to deal with the significant UXO contamination in their country. Cleared Ground is working with LUTCAM to create an EOD and BAC capacity, as well as develop SOPs, roving teams and optimise quality assurance. The partnership has been tasked initially with the site of Paiol de Bra.
Paiol de Bra
The National Mine Action Authority CAAMI (Centro Nacional de Coordenacao da Accao Anti-Minas) has prioritised clearance within the densely populated capital of Bissau. Although the capital was declared mine-free in August 2006, a significant UXO contamination still remains within the site of the former ammunition store of Paiol de Bra. Paiol De Bra was within the battle zone of the Independence War, and formed part of the front line between the opposing forces during the Civil War. Munitions, including complex cluster bombs, have been scattered over a vast area as a result of the wars and summer grass fires. Of major concern is the proximity of the site to major infra-structure, for example the site is, 200m from the new central bus station, 800m from a school, and 2km from the international airport. The government has already allocated the future development of the Paiol de Bra site post-clearance to much needed housing.