Two Irish Aid-funded HALO Trust demining staff search a minefield together in Ba Huy Village, Cambodia. Photo credit: HALO Trust
April 4th is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Landmines kill and maim thousands of civilians every year, and impede development by blocking access to agriculture, education and healthcare. Worldwide, Irish Aid supports demining partners to remove these deadly mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the ground so that communities and their children can live safer, more productive lives.
Ireland has been an important supporter of humanitarian mine action since the early 1990s. Funding for humanitarian mine action programmes, including weapons and ammunition disposal, contributes to Ireland’s foreign policy priorities in the disarmament and non-proliferation areas by reducing the risk of harm to civilians from remnants of past conflicts.
Mine action is a key priority for Irish Aid because it not only saves lives and alleviates suffering, but it also increases access to agricultural land for poor smallholder farmers, who are the mainstay of rural economies in Africa and Asia, helping to increase production and improve food security.
One of our key partners is the HALO Trust, the world’s largest humanitarian mine clearance organisation, with over 6,000 staff in 19 countries and territories. Our current support to HALO Trust is focused on its programmes of work on mine clearance and mine risk education in Somaliland, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Cambodia.
Ireland also supports similar programmes with Project RENEW in Central Vietnam, the UNDP Multi-Donor Trust Fund in Lao PDR for UXO clearance, and also with MAG (Mines Advisory Group) in relation to a mine risk education programme in Myanmar.
Over the period 2006 to 2016, overall support by Ireland for mine clearance and mine awareness programmes amounted to €38 million, funding demining activities in Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cambodia, Iraq, Jordan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Mozambique, Myanmar, Ukraine, Serbia, Somaliland, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. All of these countries or geographic areas were selected for support due to the severe nature of their landmine and UXO hazards.
Afghanistan remains one of the most densely mine affected countries in the world, where hundreds of communities, comprising of more than 1 million Afghans, live within 500 metres of these hazards. In 2016, as a result of funding from Irish Aid, 192 hectares of mined land was cleared and 1,777 landmines and explosive remnants of war were destroyed.
HALO Trust Afghan manual deminers work on a minefield in Ghandaki Village, Balkh Province, Afghanistan. Photo credit: HALO Trust, 2015
One project which HALO Trust has undertaken in Afghanistan, with Irish Aid funding, was the removal of anti-personnel mines buried on village land. Restoring this high-value grazing and harvesting land to safe agricultural use was vital to enable rural families to support themselves. By increasing wheat yields and expanding sheep flocks, this offers the families greater food security and improved livelihood opportunities.
The Liberation War of the 1970s left Zimbabwe with a huge landmine problem, with hundreds of kilometres of very dense mine belts along the border with Mozambique. In 2016, as a result of funding from Irish Aid, 86 hectares of mined land was cleared and 1,863 landmines and explosive remnants of war were destroyed. 2,298 people from affected communities also received mine risk education.
Beneficiaries from Gomo Village, Zimbabwe, on their way to fetch water, pass through an access route on a minefield being cleared by HALO Trust. Photo credit: HALO Trust, 2015
In 2015, HALO Trust, with Irish Aid funding, completed a demining programme at a minefield in Gomo Village, Zimbabwe, where 711 anti-personnel mines were destroyed and 31,398 square metres of land were cleared. This improved the community’s access to safe travel routes, water and usable land.