Day in the life of a SafeLane deminer

Meet Magalhaes, a SafeLane deminer working in Mozambique, clearing a path through heavy bush and risking his life to keep his community safe.

My name is Magalhaes Mario Nihitsala, I was born 26-05-1965 and I reside in Boane.  I am married to Olga Albino Sitoe.

I started in the demining industry on the 4th of May 1994 and my first contract was as deminer abroad in Lebanon and then in Iraq.

I have been working as a deminer for 26 years; I have learned a lot over this time period and have gained a lot of experience in many different parts of the world. I started with SafeLane Mozambique in 2008 and I am still working for them to date.

I love every single moment of my work as knowing that what we do plays a vital role in keeping the Mozambican communities safe is very rewarding.

My day normally start at 4 o’clock in the morning.  I shower and head to breakfast ready for our first group safety briefing at 5:45am.

At 6:00am we leave the camp and each team travels to their work site.  The travel time varies depending on where the worksite is for the day, but can be anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours travelling through thick bush on dirt roads.

Arriving on site, the team leader gives a battle area clearance (BAC) safety brief and task brief for the day.  After the briefing, we start our preparations for work by testing detectors, testing communications and checking our individual personal protection equipment (PPE).

We also confirm that our team members have all that is needed for the day.  Our team normally consists of a team leader, medic, 2 x deminers and 1 x driver.

My task is clearing a path with my Schonstedt detector for subsurface search and/or visual surface search of the area.

I ensure that the lane is safe for the bush clearing team that will be working behind us.

By doing this I need to also cut down vegetation that will hinder my task and this is very thorough work as the African bush is very thick and dense.

We mark the area where we have cleared for our safety and for the safety of the people that will be working behind us.

We normally follow a plotted route that was supplied by the client and must stay inside the perimeter required by the client.

Normally we work in turns of 45 minutes and then have 10 minutes break for our safety.

At 12 o’clock we take our lunch break for 1 hour and then return to work.

When working in the African bush, you need to constantly pay attention to what you are doing and what is around you, as there are many threats present.  There are very poisonous snakes and poisonous trees and vegetation present, not to mention the wild bees that we often encounter.

We also must take great care to coordinate and mark caves, anthills, trees and flora that are protected in order to preserve the Mozambican ecosystem.

At end of each day we close our lanes by marking the area and reporting via radio that the task for day was completed safely.

When we return to our control point we check that we have all equipment with us.  We then start cleaning our equipment for the next day and the team leader will also conduct a debrief of the day’s work and the challenges we have faced.    

We communicate via the radio that we are returning to the base camp.

When we arrive at camp at 18:00 we off-load the equipment and repack our kit ready for the following day.

Then I get the opportunity to take a shower and have some much-needed rest and relaxation before we start again the following morning.

This is just a normal day in the life of a deminer working in Mozambique.

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