“Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat,” wrote former British PM Winston Churchill. The WWII battle of El Alamein decisively turned the tide on the Axis powers in North Africa. But 75 years later, Egyptians are fighting against a hidden enemy—landmines
Scars of Battle of El Alamein
The battle “left behind a vast amount of unexploded ordnances that remain a major risk for the population”, Ivan Surkos, the EU’s ambassador to Egypt, was quoted as saying by AFP. “2,680 square kilometres of the land in the North West Coast are estimated to still be contaminated”
In a bid to tackle it, the European Union has funnelled some $5.5 million over the past few years after its military cut funding—but despite some 1,000 square kilometres being cleared, huge swathes of territory remain untouched.
The deadly fields
But there’s some good news. Those conducting the perilous work scouring for mines say that the painstaking searches in the field and projects in the classroom are paying off, according to AFP. So far in 2017 there has been just one casualty from mines, a decrease from previous years, said General Fathy Mansour, deputy commander of the Military Engineering corps
No tourists here
The presence of landmines in and around El Alamein has not just exacted a heavy toll on residents—it has also stunted economic development in a seaside region that could be a tourist draw. Part of an ambitious government programme to create more than 30 cities from scratch around the country to alleviate Egypt’s urban crush, new Alamein is being built on an area that has been cleared of explosives, according to Richard Dictus, the UNDP representative in Egypt