History of The HALO Trust

The HALO Trust became a formal legal entity on 9 March 1988, however the concept of providing civilian mineclearance as an act of humanity was developed by HALO’s founders over the two years running up to 1988.

Guy Willoughby and Colin Mitchell were seeing the impact of landmines in both the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan. In the former, the provision of humanitarian relief supplies was badly hampered by anti-tank mines on roads, while in Afghanistan thousands of civilians were becoming victims of anti-personnel mines. The rising number of casualties treated by the International Red Cross hospital in the Pakistan city of Peshawar gave an indication of the threat that mines would present to the eventual large scale return of Afghan refugees.

On the 14 April 1988 The Geneva Accord was signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the Soviet Union and the USA acting as guarantors. A month later on 15th May 1988 the Soviet Forces started their withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the same week Guy Willoughby set up HALO in Kabul.   Twenty-six years later, and without interruption despite political regime changes, HALO in Afghanistan has grown to over 3,000 staff – and has cleared over 780,000 mines from minefields and stockpiles, and ten million items of ordnance.

HALO’s second programme started in Cambodia in 1991, when HALO was asked by UNHCR to conduct a mines survey ahead of the planned repatriation of over 600,000 refugees from the Thai border camps. As with Afghanistan, this programme quickly developed into full mineclearance, and 23 years later HALO has over 1,100 demining staff and has cleared well over 260,000 mines from across the north-west provinces.

In 1993 HALO started in Mozambique, again with an initial survey for UNDP of the country-wide impact of landmines, particularly on roads.  By 2007 HALO had cleared over 150,000 landmines and every known mined area from the four provinces north of the Zambezi, and then moved to the south and central provinces, where HALO currently works with 435 staff.

HALO's Angola programme started in 1994. The current number of national staff is 409 working in 6  provinces, having fallen from 1,200 in previous years due to the challenging climate for fundraising in Angola.  HALO has cleared over 68,000 mines from 570 sites.

HALO’s programmes in the Caucasus started in 1995 and 1996 – in Nagorno Karabakh, Georgia/Abkhazia and Chechnya.  The Karabakh project was run with a limited timeframe of 18 months, to see if a Local Capacity could be set up, equipped, trained and then left to run on its own with no external financial or technical support. By Year 2000 the Stepanakert authorities invited HALO to return, and over the last 14 years, HALO has run a regular programme, currently employing 108 national staff, and having cleared over 10,000 landmines

Abkhazia was formally "mine free" in November 2011, but large amounts of ordnance remain for which HALO maintains EOD teams totalling 25 national staff. Over 10,000 mines and 59,000 items of unexploded ordnance have been cleared.

HALO’s programme in Somaliland started in 1999, and 15 years later nearly 500 staff are employed full time. These deminers have cleared over 100,000  explosive items from 19,800 hectares.

The same year we conducted an emergency survey in Kosovo, and then commenced clearance employing over 400 staff. Work continues today, clearing cluster bomblet strikes and also minefields.

In 2000-2001 we surveyed Ethiopia and Eritrea, and followed up with 480 deminers working in Eritrea.

HALO Sri Lanka started in 2002, and 12 years later has over 1,100 national staff, having cleared over 180,000 mines and over 60,000 items of unexploded or stray ammunition across Jaffna and the Vanni on behalf of the returning displaced families.

HALO Colombia started in 2013, with formal registration in Bogota and a Memorandum of Understanding with the government to survey areas where the conflict has finished.

In May 2011 HALO conducted an emergency survey of the Ivory Coast that found that there were significant problems with ammunition storage.  HALO then embarked on a stockpile security project which aims to relocate ammunition away from civilian areas and secure it in more remote stores.  HALO is also working with the police and military to improve weapons security arrangements across the country.  

Over the last 26 years we also conducted assessment missions into other mine-impacted countries, such as Bosnia, Croatia, Lebanon, Vietnam, Laos, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Tajikstan, and currently maintains a presence with 10 national staff in Myanmar."

HALO’s Weapons & Ammunition Disposals (WAD) teams are working in Afghanistan, Angola, Somaliland, Ivory Coast and Central African Republic, and have worked in Cambodia and Mozambique.  

The HALO Trust’s global HQ is in a converted stable block in South West Scotland.

Edit date: 14 November 2014