During a visit to Kiev today, Boris Johnson, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, announced an additional £2m for The HALO Trust to continue its operations in Ukraine over the next two years. The UK charity is currently clearing landmines and other explosive remnants of the conflict in the country’s eastern regions.
The funding was announced at the British Embassy in Kiev where the Foreign Secretary saw a mine clearance demonstration by HALO’s Ukrainian staff. The UK is the largest donor to clearance operations in Ukraine. Having previously provided £650,000 to HALO, the UK is also providing funding of £500,000 to support national capacity building by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
James Cowan, CEO of The HALO Trust, said:
“The UK’s support for HALO in Ukraine has allowed us to respond quickly to the needs of a population that wants to return to their homes and land. By getting to work swiftly, HALO is playing a major part in delivering stability in eastern Ukraine.”
Landmines have been used extensively in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since it began in April 2014. Since May 2014 there have been at least 559 civilian casualties of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The average casualty rate for 2016 has been over 20 per month.
In response to the crisis in Ukraine HALO launched its programme in November 2015 and began with a rapid assessment of landmine and unexploded ordnance contamination in Donetsk and Luhansk regions (oblasts). This was followed by a systematic survey and clearance.
HALO Ukraine currently employs 119 Ukrainian staff, many of whom are IDPs from Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian-speaking experts from HALO programmes in the Caucasus are training Ukrainian staff and providing management expertise while local capacity is being developed.
In August 2016 HALO received permission to begin working within the 15km buffer zone around the front lines (line of contact). Clearance of a minefield in the village of Pavlopil, 20km NE of the city of Mariupol, and 1.5km from the front line began in September in response to an appeal from the local community. People are desperately trying to return to normal life in areas where the fighting has either passed by or stabilised but a safe return is restricted by the presence of landmines.
Clearance is supporting safe cultivation, the rebuilding of homes and the reconstruction of infrastructure.
For interviews with James Cowan, CEO of the HALO Trust in Scotland, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or T: 0044 1848 331 100
For interviews in Ukraine please contact firstname.lastname@example.org T: +380 98 210 6882
For images of HALO deminers in Ukraine please email email@example.com
NOTE TO EDITORS: Currently HALO works only in territory controlled by the Ukrainian Government. HALO creates safe and secure environments in war torn communities by clearing landmines, managing stockpiles of weapons and destroying unexploded ordnance. It was founded in 1988 and has over 6,000 full-time staff operating in conflict and post conflict zones in 19 countries and territories including: Abkhazia, Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Colombia, Georgia, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Laos, Mozambique, Nagorno Karabakh, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, West Bank and Zimbabwe.