Emergency clearance in Afghanistan

HALO's Emergency Clearance for Afghan Refugees
September 24, 2014

In addition to its ongoing 2014 humanitarian mine and UXO clearance operations across Afghanistan, HALO is providing emergency mine clearance in support of several thousand refugees displaced from Pakistan to Afghanistan. These families fled their villages in Northern Waziristan this summer due to Pakistani army military operations, and have settled on land granted to them in Gurbuz District, Khost Province.

The UNHCR and the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA) made an urgent appeal to HALO for clearance assistance, after a large number of these families were inadvertently settled onto land recorded as mined. A number of anti-tank mines, laid by the Russians and Mujahedin in the 1980s, were found within the perimeter of the camp, located during digging to fix tent poles. In addition, anti-personnel mines laid during the same decade are contaminating some higher ground close the camp.

In early response in July, HALO redeployed seven Survey, Manual Demining and Mechanical Demining teams to Gurbuz District from Central Region tasks, and established a tented demining camp within walking distance of the refugee occupied land. With UNHCR and the local authorities tents were moved away from the hazardous areas being cleared and HALO agreed a priority clearance plan for the contaminated ground. This effort requires careful liaison with the local district authorities, UNHCR and the families’ representatives. To help support the work HALO recruited 60+ men from nearby mine affected communities in Khost Province, passed them through the standard 3 week demining recruit course at HALO’s training facilities north of Kabul, and deployed them as members of the Khost teams.