Given that the majority of the interior minefields have now been cleared, it is HALO’s view that the fastest way to reduce the number of landmine accidents in Cambodia is to target those areas in the 21 districts where most accidents occur.
In doing so, HALO believes support will be given to the most vulnerable border communities, thus making significant contributions towards the development of some of the most poverty stricken communities in Cambodia.
HALO Cambodia currently has over 1,000 national staff working in the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Otdar Meanchey and Pailin. Recruiting, training and then deploying female and male deminers from the mine affected districts means that the landmine contaminated communities remain an integral component in the clearance process. Living and working in these communities HALO’s deminers are methodically ridding Cambodia of the landmine menace.
HALO is fully supportive of the official Mine Action Planning Unit (MAPU) task selection process. This begins with District Workshops as early as April/May in the preceding year. Senior HALO representatives attend all planning meetings (commune/district/province) and are in regular contact with MAPU and Provincial Mine Action Committee (PMAC) representatives from all provinces. HALO teams visit and survey all MAPU-selected sites (i.e. all sites put forward by the village, commune and district committees) and MAPU staff do likewise for additional sites identified by HALO (for example through analysis and investigation of accident trends). This ensures that all clearance tasks comply with MAPU criteria (intended land use, beneficiary selection, land ownership etc.). A decision is then made with the MAPUs on the final selection of tasks for the following year’s Provincial Work Plan(s). The process is intensive and thorough and requires the active participation of demining operators. In recent years HALO has been unique amongst operators by completing in excess of 90% of its MAPU approved annual workplans.
Alongside our clearance work HALO’s survey teams have continued to systematically clarify the nature and magnitude of landmine contamination in Cambodia. Currently our survey assets are an integral component of the Baseline Survey of Cambodia, a Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) led process to quantify the true nature of the remaining mine threat in Cambodia. The CMAA has stated in its 2010-2019 National Mine Action Strategy that it expects the findings of the Baseline Survey to compliment the MAPU system by enhancing planning and prioritisation so that clearance assets are targeted where the need is greatest. The inclusion of the Baseline Survey formed a major part of Cambodia’s Mine Ban Treaty extension request; which was granted.
Between 1991 and September 2012, HALO Cambodia has cleared over 8,400 hectares (20,800 acres) of landmine contaminated land whilst destroying over 256,000 landmines, 155,000 items of large calibre ammunition and 1.32 million bullets. Since 2000 HALO has undertaken over 2,300 mineclearance tasks in over 400 villages. Our Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams have reached another 1,450 villages conducting over 9,500 emergency ‘call-outs’ (spot tasks).
Nationally, after a decade of relative stability, Cambodia has entered into a prolonged phase of economic development. Progress has been significant, but nevertheless poverty and food insecurity are still prevalent, in particular in the rural parts of the country. More than 80% of the total population live in rural areas, with more than 90% of them depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. Northwest Cambodia has seen a 35% population increase since hostilities ceased – this rapid population growth in the border areas has meant that these areas constitute a very high relative percentage of the national total of mine accidents even as the absolute total has declined. It is not insignificant that post-clearance land use on HALO cleared tasks, from the last ten years, includes over 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres) for agriculture, over 600 hectares (1,500 acres) for resettlement and 90 hectares (225 acres) for water projects; also 800 kilometres of rural roads have been cleared connecting communities to markets, and 42 sites cleared around schools.