Remove landmines from a village in Cambodia

by The HALO Trust
Jay and her family
Jay and her family

Cambodia is home to one of the most dangerous and densely laid mine-belts in the world, the K5. Residents Jay and her family know only too well how dangerous the K5 can be.

“My husband and I have three sons, and we’ve been living here since 2010. We’re from Siem Reap but we couldn’t afford to buy land there, so when a friend said that we could get free land in Damnak Kakaoh (a village in Banteay Meanchey Province) we decided to move.”

Unfortunately, in rural areas of Cambodia, ‘free’ or untouched and unclaimed land can be a tell tale sign of mine contamination. When new and unfamiliar to an area, or when desperate to cultivate crops for income, individuals and families will expand into dangerous unclaimed lots of land not fully knowing the risks they’re taking.

“Last year, my little sister and two of my sons went off to pick vegetables and my sister trod on a mine. Our boys were walking close behind her and they were both hurt badly too. We knew it was a mined area, but we thought there would be a lot of vegetables to pick because no one ever goes there - and we told the kids to be careful and walk close behind my sister. We took my sister and our sons to a free hospital in Thailand for treatment, but my sister lost her leg anyway and both of our sons had deep cuts from the shrapnel all over their bodies. Still, they were lucky. We can’t wait for HALO to finish working here so nobody else gets hurt. We’ve told our children never to go into the mined areas again, and we’ve told all the other villagers as well.”

Generous contributions from donors like you help families like Jay’s live safe and productive lives. The destruction of even one mine can make a world of difference to a family, and with your help we have so far eliminated over 220,000 landmines in Cambodia. However, there is much more work to be done and we’re committed to finishing the job.

The HALO Trust is proud to announce that last month Mozambique was officially declared mine-impact free! HALO began operations in Mozambique 22 years ago, when Mozambique was considered one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. With continued support and dedicated mine clearance efforts on the ground, the threat of landmines can eliminated for good in Cambodia, too.

Do you have any ideas about how HALO can spread the word? We would love to hear your thoughts: mail@halousa.org

Links:

Landmine survivor Savy and her son
Landmine survivor Savy and her son

Since the last update in April, our demining teams in Cambodia have made significant progress. They have found and destroyed 753 landmines, and 353 other explosive remnants of war, to make safe over 1,000 acres of land. This lifesaving work has directly benefited 2,332 rural Cambodians.

Savy is one of the beneficiaries and a landmine survivor. She shared with us the story of her accident and her appreciation for the work you support:

 “I moved to live in a refugee camp on the Thai border with my parents when I was a little girl. In the early 1990s, our family was told we could have free land in Jok Pouk village, so we moved there straight away. In 1996, I was cutting thatch near our house. We needed a new roof, and we thought we could sell some thatch, as well. Suddenly, I stepped on a mine and there was a big explosion… my leg was gone. Since my parents died, life has been really difficult for me. My husband lost his eyesight in 2001 and I’ve been supporting our family since then - it’s hard. We moved to Damnak Kakaoh so that I could work at the cassava factory here. I’ve got six kids, and the older ones had to leave school to work at the factory with me. We just couldn’t afford to send them all to school. I’m so pleased that land in this village is being cleared - the parts near my house are safe now, so I don’t worry about my children when they play outside.”

Thank you for supporting mineclearance in Cambodia. Your generousity helps to prevent accidents, such as Savy's, and to return valuable land for farming.

Do you know any individuals, foundations or corporations that you think would be interested in learning more about our mineclearance efforts in Cambodia? 

We’d love to hear from you. 

Children on safe ground in Cambodia.
Children on safe ground in Cambodia.

April 4th marked the 10th International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

The 2015 theme 'More than Mines' takes into account the types of explosive threats faced by war-torn communities and members and brings attention to the fact that disposing of explosive hazards is only one part of mine action work.

Landmines are not the only explosive hazards that pose a danger to civilians living in conflict and post-conflict settings; unexploded bombs, grenades, unsecured weapons and ammunition and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) also kill, injure and block access to healthcare, education and development. 

Last year in Cambodia, we located and destroyed 6,514 explosive remants of war (along with 5,325 landmines) and were called out over 2,000 times to attend to deadly explosives found by the community. These items are especially dangerous to children because of their natural curiousity they collect the explosives and play with them.

In February 2014, three children were killed when they tampered with an unexploded 60-millimetre rocket that they found near their village in Kampong Chhnang province while herding cattle.

Thank you for your generous support that helps us remove 'More than Mines' in Cambodia to prevent these deadly accidents. 

Children at an orphanage bordered by a minefield
Children at an orphanage bordered by a minefield

Thank you to our generous donors who helped remove landmines from the villages of Cambodia in 2014. We are now halfway to our project goal on GlobalGiving and every donation counts.

Last year HALO found and destroyed over 4,750 landmines in Cambodia, along with over 6,120 other explosive remnants of war (ERW). 275 minefields were cleared resulting in over 2,730 acres of land being returned to the rural poor for homes, farming, roads and schools. In the village of Banteay Ti Muoy, we have cleared 33 minefields between 2008 and 2014.

Here’s one story behind the statistics.

The David Center orphanage in Odtar Meanchey Province provides shelter, food and accommodation for 63 children. However, the agricultural land surrounding it is mined. Almost one quarter (22%) of mine/ERW casualties in Cambodia in 2014 were children. Their natural curiosity often leads them to pick up and play with dangerous items.

The orphanage manager, Mr. Bunna, said they were not aware of the danger that existed. Once HALO explained the risks Mr. Bunna told the children not to enter the hazardous area but even so they would sometimes sneak out and play there. During one such occasion, the children saw an item of UXO but fortunately left it alone and reported it to him. 

A HALO Mine Risk Education (MRE) team has since visited the children to make sure they are fully aware of the dangers and stay off the land. HALO began clearance in July and over 11 landmines have since been found and destroyed. The clearance of this land will not only ensure the children’s safety and provide a greater area for them to play; it will allow Mr. Bunna to use the land for cultivation and grazing to better support the children.

Thanks again to all our donors and supporters worldwide who make our work possible.

We wish you a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Farmer ploughs cleared ground for the first time.
Farmer ploughs cleared ground for the first time.

In Banteay Ti Muoy, and the many other mine-impacted villages in Northwest Cambodia, not only are we saving lives but we are clearing minefields for families desperate for additional farmland.

In the village of Banteay Ti Muoy we currently have two teams working to clear one minefield that the local authorities prioritized to provide safe agriculture land for four families. In addition, the clearance will indirectly benefit 413 families who often transit through this area to access their rice paddies nearby. 

In another vulnerable, rural community, Thlok village, in Northwest Cambodia, Mr. Sok lives with his wife, their three children and one grandchild. They moved up north in 2006 as they heard there was free land available. They did not know that the land would be mined.

On their small piece of land they grew cassava and some other vegetables but the safe area was too small to grow enough to feed their family. Once his daughter and her husband realized they had walked into the minefield and had to call for help to come and guide them safely away from the area. Very luckily they both managed to escape without causing any mines to detonate.

Now that the family's land has been cleared by HALO, Mr. Sok has extended his cassava cultivation. They can plough their land safely and produce enough crops to sell in order to support the family. 

Thank you for helping to make this possible. Together we can make landmines history. 

Sok
Sok's grandchild plays amongst the new cassava.
 

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Organization Information

The HALO Trust

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.halotrust.org/​
Project Leader:
Amy Currin
Head of Development
San Francisco, CA United States

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