April 4, 2008 / 5:01 PM / in 11 years

Landmine victim helping Cyprus become mine free

LARNACA, Cyprus (Reuters) - A week ago, Serafin Daudo was sweeping for mines at a poignant symbol of division on ethnically divided Cyprus. Today he is lying in a hospital bed, his foot blown off in a bid to make Cyprus landmine free.

Daudo, a Mozambican team leader in a mine clearing squad attached to the United Nations on the war-divided island, was injured in an explosion of an anti-personnel mine on March 28.

According to the Canadian-based Landmine Monitor Report, some estimates say his southern African homeland has suffered 30,000 mine casualties, a scourge Friday’s UN International Day for Mine Awareness is designed to highlight.

And yet Daudo has no regrets moving to Cyprus to help rid the divided Mediterranean island of the unwanted legacy of its strife.

“Any job is dangerous. Working in a factory could be dangerous too. We cannot be scared by the danger of a job,” he told Reuters earlier this week. “I accepted the risks.”

On the island for just over three years, Daudo had led a team of experts to make Nicosia’s Ledra Street safe before it opened on Thursday after half a century, prompting jubilant celebrations by Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Explosives were not found in the corridor, running across a United Nations controlled “buffer zone” bisecting a decaying core of no-man’s land splitting the capital Nicosia for decades.

But landmines lurk in many more places along the 180 km ceasefire line splitting the island, and tragedy struck two days later at a location east of the capital.

Since November 2004 disposal experts have cleared more than three million square meters of land and 3,483 landmines from 35 minefields on the island. But an estimated 20,000 landmines in 26 minefields are scheduled to be cleared in future.

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE

The plastic-covered M14 mine which severed Daudo’s left foot is about the size of a circle formed by the thumb and forefinger, packed with 29 grammes of explosives.

He required three hours emergency surgery and at some point, he will need an artificial limb, joining a legion of landmine victims.

“I can’t see the reason in laying mines in the ground to use against human beings,” said the smiling Daudo from his hospital bed, looking younger than his 28 years.

His two brothers are also deminers, the by-product of living in a mine-infested country riven by a civil war which ended in 1994. Asked if his mother approves, he said: “She worries alot.”

Despite his injuries, Daudo is keen to return to work to ensure he can continue to send home most of his earnings and support his children, a boy and girl aged 8 and 6.

“I’m preparing a future for my children. That’s what I really want. I’d want my children to go on to university, be teachers or something, have a future.”

Now he says he is taking one day at a time but he wants to continue his chosen profession.

“I have to wait until I recover and attempt to walk again before I think about my future. I would want to return to work given the chance,” he said.

Editing by Jon Boyle

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