Van Thoeun (50 years old) is a husband, a father of six and a grandfather who risks his life to feed his family. His family lives in Banteay Ti Mouy, the village this project supports, where there are landmines. Despite the threat of mines on their land, Van cultivated the hazardous area because he had no other means to support his family. He grows cassava, a staple crop in Cambodia and a major source of carbohydrates in the developing world. Once harvested, chopped up and dried in the open air, a 1kg sack should earn him roughly 15c at the market. His family depends on the food for nutrients and the surplus cash for living expenses. Thanks to our generous donors, like you, HALO was able to start clearing the hazardous land this August. Van is thankful he will soon be able to farm without fear and stop worrying when his granddaughter runs into the fields to play.
What if you had to choose between risking your life and feeding your family? It’s a choice too many Cambodians have to face.
Thank you for supporting this urgent work.
The HALO Trust, Google Earth Outreach and Angelina Jolie Team up to Map Minefields around the World
HALO is leveraging Google Earth technology to bring added transparency to humanitarian landmine clearance. Tours of mine-affected areas were created for viewing in Google Earth software and narrated by Angelina Jolie, a longtime HALO supporter, taking viewers to mine-affected areas in Cambodia and Angola. Explore a Minefield shows how mineclearance has allowed families to return home, land to be used for agriculture, roads to be re-opened, and children to walk to school safely – in short, communities to thrive. It also shows viewers minefields that remain in villages which still require clearance. Watch the tours here - http://www.googletour.halousa.org/.
HALO uses Google Earth to help clear landmines. Thanks to a grant from Google Earth Outreach, HALO uses Google Earth Pro in thirteen countries for minefield survey, data validation and to produce maps for donors, governments, and other NGOs. Google Earth’s historical imagery allows HALO to provide time-lapse images that clearly show how landmine removal is helping war-torn communities rebuild. Explore a Minefield was funded through a Google Earth Outreach Developer Grant.
Angelina Jolie first learned about the landmine issue and the work of The HALO Trust while filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia. She has since been an advocate of HALO’s work, visiting and supporting mine removal efforts in a number of war-torn countries including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Kosovo.
We hope you enjoy the tours! If you do please share them with your friends and family.
Yours in demining,
On March 20, 2012 , Alexis Nadin and Jacqueline Lee from GlobalGiving joined HALO Trust in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a day in the field - clearing landmines.
Looking at a giant map HALO representative, Stanislav, demonstrated the areas identified as minefields, those cleared by HALO, and those cleared by other organizations. A majority of the colors are focused around the Thailand border, and many of the current minefields yet to be cleared are around villages where families and children are at risk of accidentally coming across not only a landmine but also a tank mine or even a UXO, unexploded ordinance – remnants of past war and conflict.
Stanislav shared the Baseline Survey Project, which is uniting every organization in the area clearing minefields to identify all minefields and has a goal of capturing 95% of the fields needing to be cleared.
Who informs organizations of the fields? Local villagers, former soldiers, and others who have heard stories, witnessed explosions, or themselves have lost legs and family members in unidentified minefields around the towns.
The danger is that as time goes by and the cost of living increases, villagers need to expand their fields for crops generating income. Additionally, as families grow and Cambodians repatriate to the country they need land to build homes, schools, and hospitals. As expansion and development increases in Cambodia, so does the risk of expanding into a forgotten minefield… that is until it is no longer forgotten and creating tragedy in the present.
What is stopping organizations like HALO from clearing every minefield? Stanislav explained to me that limited funding and capacity limits the number of minefields they can clear each year, therefore they have to focus on priority areas. Priority areas are high risk pieces of land next to villages with families and children as well as areas planned for development. Additionally, they target where the most accidents are happening – basically where there will be most impact.
These minefields are stopping progress of development and income generating activities for these families. In the field, I witnessed first hand the impact of the minefields. Crop fields and villages stop abruptly and as far as you can see are patches of dense untouched forest – these untouched areas are where accidents have and are occurring.
After an in depth and strict security and safety briefing by HALO, Alexis and I put on our safety gear which consisted of a helmet with plastic head and neck guard and a heavy, thick Kevlar vest protecting all vitals from an accidental detonation. We were showed a head guard and vest that had been exposed to a detonation, and although it was ripped-apart and dented on the outside, the inside was untouched like new. I felt confident in the safety of my vitals.
Going into the field was scary and exciting all at the same time. Beyond the safety zone were red sticks everywhere. These indicate un-cleared minefields – do not cross zones. As we went through the field accompanying the staff on their routine day, de-miners were working carefully and focused on discovered mines, potential mines not yet exposed, and scanning grids with high-tech metal detectors.
The de-miners had just discovered a few mines and carefully exposed the sides in order to verify and destroy them. Alexis and I were asked if we would like to destroy one of the mines – so we had the opportunity of a lifetime to press the button that would prevent a future tragedy. It was an intense 30 seconds waiting for the explosion… then BOOM, a loud jolt went off that shook even my camera while I was filming. This was a small mine – I could not imagine how it must be if accidentally detonating or even standing next to it when it accidentally goes off or even when coming across a larger tank mine.
An important lesson of the day was stated by Stanislav from HALO Trust, “Mines don’t discriminate. We don’t discriminate.” HALO is empowering communities by providing jobs and opportunity for local Cambodians. HALO hires locally to be a part of clearing local land, managing the projects, and supporting the local villages.
When clearing minefields, each landmine is a potential accident or death waiting to be exposed regardless of who or what comes across it. The sticks in the ground determining cleared mines were what I call “life sticks”, signifiers of what could have been tombstones but are now representing the lives that have been spared.
Happy 2012, to our GlobalGiving friends!
A big thank you to all who donated over the holiday season, we received 36 new donations in December and January, for which we are very grateful.
It’s been almost one year since we began our project on GlobalGiving, to help clear landmines in Banteay Ti Muoy, a village in northwest Cambodia where minefields severely affect people's safety and ability to farm. I’d like to give you an update on how we are doing.
This map shows where HALO has cleared minefields in the village (in dark blue), along with those currently being cleared (in bright blue), and the remaining mined areas (in pink). Up until the end of last year, HALO had destroyed over 2,000 landmines and other explosive items from the village, returning 201 acres of land. But this map graphically illustrates the extent of the remaining mines problem still facing local residents.
90% of the land owned by Mr. Tork Tout (shown) is blocked by the presence of mines, leaving him to harvest only 1.5 tons of rice a year. But through supporters like you, his life is changing. Once clearance of his land is complete, Tout plans to boost his harvest by 200%, generating a further 3 tons of rice annually and multiplying his income by an equivalent factor. This increase in earnings will greatly improve his ability to support his family and keep his three children in school. The family is excited about their future and is presently building a new house next to their land in anticipation.
Banteay Ti Muoy is blessed with particularly fertile soil and a ready supply of water. If we can clear the mines, we can save lives and put family farms back in business. Can you help us spread the word?
You can always reach out to us with any questions or to find out how to get more involved - firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week the mine action community has its eyes on Cambodia, where the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (11MSP) is being held in Phnom Penh. It is a formal meeting of the 158 States that have accepted the 1997 convention prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.
It is a time to reflect on how far the country has come to rid itself of landmines, as well as the work that still needs to be done. We hope that this meeting will inspire further action and that donors join HALO in our commitment to not stopping until the job is done.
Since 1991, HALO has worked tirelessly throughout northwest Cambodia, primarily in the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Otdar Meanchey. HALO has made tremendous progress in Cambodia; a concerted and focused clearance effort has now eliminated much of the problem such that the remaining contaminated area is largely limited to the Cambodian-Thailand border region and ground surrounding former Vietnamese bases in the northwest. The progress made is best evidenced by the fall in casualty numbers, from an average of around 800 per year through the early part of this decade to 286 people in 2010. And while it is a great achievement, this is still significant war-time carnage in a country at peace, reminding us of the work that still remains to be done.
Thank you for supporting this project and helping us work towards a mine-free Cambodia, which we know can be achieved.
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