British embassy, Yerevan, holds event for Halo

On the 15th December the British Ambassador for Armenia – His Excellency Mr. Charles Lonsdale – hosted a reception in Yerevan to mark the end of DFID funding for The HALO Trust’s mine clearance programme in Nagorno Karabakh.

Speaking at the reception Roly Clark, The HALO Trust Programme Manager for Nagorno Karabakh, expressed gratitude to the British government for funding the programme in Karabakh since 2007, noting that the funding has enabled over 3,000 hectares of land contaminated by landmines and cluster munitions to be cleared with a total of 6,991 explosive items destroyed.

Despite there being more than 500 hectares of minefield and 9,300 hectares of land contaminated with cluster bombs remaining in Nagorno Karabakh, DFID’s Mine Action strategy from 2010 onwards excludes Nagorno Karabakh from the list of countries and regions that will receive mine clearance funding from the British Government.

“Funding by the British Government for HALO Nagorno Karabakh is to be stopped in early 2011, and this means that HALO’s budget for 2011 will be reduced by $400,000”, said Roly Clark, “65 deminers will be made redundant and this will result in 250 fewer hectares of mined land being cleared in Karabakh in 2011”.

Nagorno Karabakh was severely contaminated by landmines and cluster munitions during the war in the early 1990s. This contamination has been endangering rural communities for almost two decades and has caused 258 accidents killing or injuring 329 civilians since the cease fire in 1994. In 2010 there were six accidents with the last one occurring on the 14th December when a cluster munition injured a 13 year old boy. Accidents will continue until the remaining minefields and cluster munition strikes are cleared.

158 minefields and 272 cluster strikes remain on the territory of Nagorno Karabakh and with a total of $10 million The HALO Trust can clear them in five years. “We want to complete the work in Nagorno Karabakh as soon as possible. The HALO Trust’s programme in Karabakh saves the lives of poor farmers and frees mined land for safe cultivation”, Roly Clark stated.

The HALO Trust has been the sole capacity carrying out mine clearance in Nagorno Karabakh since 2000. During the last 10 years HALO has destroyed 10,266 mines, 10,485 cluster bombs and 43,639 explosive devices. These explosive items have been cleared from over 24,800 hectares of land which have been handed over to local communities for safe use.

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