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Irish Aid’s Humanitarian Mine Clearance Work

Building on Ireland’s proud tradition and commitment to international peace and security, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons have historically been key foreign policy objectives for Ireland.  

Irish Aid demining Maputo, Mozambique

An Irish Aid funded deminer working in Mahanhane in Maputo province, Mozambique © HALO Trust 

Ireland has been a supporter of humanitarian mine action since the early 1990s. Irish Aid's total expenditure for demining since 2006 currently stands at €43 million covering 17 countries – Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Jordan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Mozambique, Myanmar, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. €20.5 million in mine action funding was provided over the period 2012-2018 alone.

This de-mining action has helped to save lives, protect people from life changing injuries, and give communities access to reclaimed land, It has delivered some significant successes, notably the fact that Mozambique was officially declared mine free in September 2015.

The HALO Trust

One of Irish Aid's key partners in the area of humanitarian demining is the HALO Trust. The HALO Trust, established in 1988, is the largest independent humanitarian demining operator in the world. It specialises in the removal of the hazardous debris of war and has over 8,500 full-time staff in 25 countries and territories, with on-going surveys into new regions. Through its humanitarian assistance programme, Irish Aid is currently working with HALO Trust to clear mines and to conduct mine risk education in mine affected communities in Somalia, Colombia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Cambodia.

Disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons have historically been key foreign policy objectives for Ireland and we have made an important contribution over the last two decades to the international effort to end the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

‌‌Zimbabwe: Irish Aid funded deminer Sarah Mwnyediyan ©Halo Trust

Zimbabwe: Irish Aid funded deminer Sarah Mwnyediyan ©HALO Trust

 

Case Study - Gonzalo Wesenlau Moreno

Gonzalo Wesenlau Moreno15 (77) lives in the municipality of Lejanías, Meta and has lived on his farm, Finca Getemani, for the past 49 years.

Gonzalo was forced to leave his home in Cundinamarca, where he was born, as a result of the conflict and arrived in Meta when he was just 28 years old. He settled in a small community in an area called Cafetales, but the conflict followed him. The fighting in the region is over now, but the landmines and other explosives artefacts remain, posing a threat to Gonzalo and the other members of his community.

"I have been a victim of the conflict here in Meta, I stopped working for fear that they would launch a cylinder (a form of IED used as a large mortar) at my house, a bomb that we didn't know about, I was afraid to be on my land". Though Gonzalo suffers from asthma, which limits his capacity to work, he is grateful for the humanitarian demining being carried out by HALO in Lejanías, "I am very pleased that HALO has come to this area. It is wonderful work they are doing here, giving freedom back to the community."

On his farm, Gonzalo used to grow coffee, plantain, corn, cassava and beans. However, the fear from landmines and his poor health has limited how and where he can grow his crops, "A few years ago, two people came to my house and told me not to go up the mountain because there are landmines there. A year later the army came and they exploded 20 mines, which I counted. About six months after that, two different men came to the house saying they had demobilized and they asked how many mines the military destroyed. They told me that they could not remember if they planted 25 or 27. There are still mines up there."

The mined area that Gonzalo was referring to surrounds the only pathway that allows him access to drinking water. "I go up there every month. I have no choice. There is no other way to get water". Thanks to funding from Irish Aid the minefield on Gonzalo's land is now being cleared. To date, HALO teams have cleared over 4,000m2 of hazardous land and have identified and safely destroyed four, potentially lethal, improvised landmines.