It’s more than 20 years since Diana, Princess of Wales walked through a live minefield in Angola in January 1997 to highlight the threat posed by landmines and minefields.
This Writer cannot do anything other than support the Conservative Government’s plan to invest £100 million in ridding the world of landmines altogether by 2025 – although I notice that this is a three-year scheme and Prince Harry reckons an extra £100 million is needed every year to meet that deadline.
Still, every little helps.
And if you’re wondering why I feel duty-bound to support the project, it’s because I walked through a live minefield myself, less than three months after the Princess.
In fact, I more sort of ran through it.
And I didn’t have any of the precautionary advantages she enjoyed.
It was in Bosnia-Herzegovina, during Easter 1997. I was there as a reporter, covering charity efforts to restore the country after the war between the countries that used to comprise the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is listed as having “massive” landmine contamination today, almost exactly 20 years later. That’s more than 100 square kilometres of minefields, and it is a very small country.
While I was there, I could see the minesweepers up on the hills every day. We were all warned to stay on safe paths.
I certainly intended to, on my last full day in the country. But it was also the first sunny day of the trip and the only day I didn’t have anything solid on my schedule, so I decided to walk along the main road to a nearby village where members of the team I was shadowing were working.
All went well for a good few miles, until I passed one particular farmhouse, with one particularly ferocious-looking dog.
I saw him; he saw me – and the race was on.
Some of you might be sceptical about this; I can’t outrun a fit dog in the prime of its life, after all.
This is true, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about getting over a nearby gate and into the field beyond, and hoping that the hound wouldn’t follow.
It didn’t. It just stopped at the gate and watched me run.
After a while I realised this, reasoning that it should have caught up with me. Checking behind me confirmed that I was no longer being pursued.
So I reoriented myself to get back onto the main road (via a gap in the hedge) and carried on at a more leisurely pace.
It was only after I had climbed out of the field that I saw a big sign, carrying the same message in many different languages – that this was an uncleared minefield.
I have no idea how I managed to get out of it in one piece but I consider myself to have been both extremely lucky and extremely stupid. And I learned from my mistake.
So, in acknowledgement that my own escape was extremely unlikely and that many, many people are still endangered by this hidden menace, I can only voice support for Prince Harry, the HALO Trust, the Mines Advisory Group and even Priti Patel – in this endeavour.
The UK government is investing £100m in a plan – backed by Prince Harry – to rid the world of landmines by 2025.
International development secretary Priti Patel said the three-year aid package would tackle the “global scourge” of unexploded landmines.
Speaking at Kensington Palace, Ms Patel said it would help 800,000 people.
Prince Harry said the government had demonstrated “bold commitment” in pledging the money, but that “there is much more that needs to be done”.
He is supporting a bid by anti-landmine charities the HALO Trust and Mines Advisory Group to eradicate the explosives within eight years, following in the footsteps of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.
He said it would take an additional £100m each year until 2025 to rid the world of landmines – “the cost of a star signing for some professional football team”.
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