Ceremonies marking Japan’s long-standing commitment to HALO's mine clearance were held across different continents last week, with events at embassies in Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Colombia celebrating the handover of a total of $1,778,634 for HALO operations. These are three of the most mine impacted states in the world today, where mines continue to kill and maim.
Japanese Ambassador Yoshi Tendai Hiraishi attended a signing ceremony in Mukumbura, on Zimbabwe’s northern border on 10th February. Previous funding from the Japanese government has enabled HALO Zimbabwe to destroy 3,990 landmines there, returning 683,949m2 of land to the community. Japan also funded a minefield survey that identified 191 minefields affecting 75,262 people in 87 rural communities. The new grant of $635,281 will fund a further five demining sections. Landmines claimed the life of one man and injured four children in Zimbabwe in the last three months of 2015.
Meanwhile in Kabul, an event was held at the Japanese Embassy on 8th February to mark the handover of $570,000 of funding for demining training for 100 ex-combatants in Samanagan and Baghlan regions. Former fighters will receive a monthly salary and comprehensive training in the detecting and clearing of landmines, as well as training in additional skills such as vehicle repairs, welding and carpentry.
Demining in these regions will enable clearance of hundreds of thousands square metres of high priority agricultural and grazing land contaminated with landmines. Meeting with Ambassdor Hiroshi Takahashi, Dr Farid Homayoun from HALO Afghanistan praised Japan’s commitment to the country over the last 15 years. Dr Homayoun said the people of Japan had ‘played a vital role in restoring the infrastructure in Afghanistan that paves the ground for long-term sustainable economic development’, as well as helping to create thousands of ‘meaningful and dignified’ jobs for young Afghans.
In Colombia, Ambassador Ryutaro Hatanaka attended a signing ceremony at the Japanese Embassy in Bogota on 4th February to mark the receipt of $573,353 for mine clearance in Tolima, in the central-western Andean region of the country. The funds will be used to clear 35,000m² of mined land, preventing mine accidents and creating safe conditions to allow land restitution to take place in this previously marginalised region, which has only recently begun to emerge from more than 40 years of conflict. Regional Director, Tim Porter and HALO Colombia Programme Manager, Chris Ince thanked Japan for its sustained commitment to Colombia, where there have been over 11,000 mine victims since 1990.
For more details on the Japanese-funded project in Colombia, please see this article in the Colombian current affairs magazine ‘Semana.’ Japan has donated a total of $22.8m to HALO since 2003.