The HALO Trust was founded in 1988 in response to the global humanitarian catastrophe caused by landmines. The problem was particularly acute in Afghanistan where thousands of civilians were being killed or injured by landmines and their presence was preventing the return of tens of thousands of refugees. Our founders, Colin Mitchell, Guy Willoughby and Susan Mitchell OBE, witnessed first hand the devastation caused by landmines and other explosive remnants of war in Afghanistan and they resolved to do something about it.
On the 15th May 1988 the Soviet Forces started their withdrawal from Afghanistan, and in the same week HALO was set up in Kabul. More than twenty-five years later, HALO’s Afghanistan programme employs thousands of Afghans and we have expanded the scope and breadth of our work to include explosive ordnance disposal, stockpile security and management, weapons disposal and armed violence reduction, in addition to humanitarian de-mining.
The landmine issue shot to international prominence in 1997 when Princess Diana walked through one of HALO’s minefields in Angola.
Prince Harry continued in her footsteps by visiting Angola during the year in which he was patron for HALO's 25th Anniversary.
Shortly after Princess Diana's visit in 1997, the International Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty (also known as the Ottawa Convention) was signed. The treaty calls for all to do “their utmost to contribute in an efficient and coordinated manner to face the challenge of removing anti-personnel mines placed throughout the world, and to assure their destruction”.
Over the years our quick response to meeting humanitarian needs came to characterize HALO’s approach. In 1999 we responded to the emergency in Kosovo and sent in survey teams hours after the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces, to identify minefields and cluster munition strikes. In 2000 we were called on to conduct emergency survey of the frontlines in the immediate aftermath of the Eritrea-Ethiopia war in 2000. After the end of the Sri Lanka civil war in 2009, when landmine casualties rose significantly, HALO led an extensive landmine clearance programme, destroying over 100,000 landmines and allowing 190,000 displaced people to return home safely. More recently, we have started work in Ukraine and Syria.
From small beginnings back in the late 1980s we now employ thousands of men and women from the communities we serve in conflict and post-conflict countries and territories around the world.
To find out more about what we are doing and where, click here.