“I fear mines more than I ever feared the war.”
Even when the fighting ends, landmines left behind cast a dark shadow over lives and livelihoods—a fact Andrey Arakelyan, mayor of Kusapat village in Nagorno Karabakh knows only too well.
Kusapat and the Martakert region were the scene of intense fighting during the 1992-94 War, leaving the village decimated and the surrounding forests littered with landmines. Although the Ceasefire Agreement was signed in 1994, for the next decade, minefields cut off local families from vital water supplies.
“I was thrown 40 metres by the force of the explosion”
The dense forests around the village are important for collecting wood or foraging but the presence of landmines made this extremely dangerous.
Andrey recalls the day he was driving out to the forest when his car struck an anti-tank mine. In the huge explosion that followed, Andrey was thrown 30-40 metres away. Fortunately, he was not seriously injured but it underlined the threat to families living nearby.
“HALO has played a big part in the restoration of livelihoods in Kusapat"
In 2002, HALO began work to destroy the landmines in Martakert region and by 2004, the water supply was able to be restored to Kusapat village for a few hours every day.
We have now cleared 139 minefields across the region, and Martakert’s Director of Forestry, Ilyich Baghryan, estimates that about 80 per cent of the forests around Kusapat village have been made safe by HALO, allowing families to use this valuable resource:
“HALO has played a big part in the restoration of livelihoods in Kusapat village and the region as a whole.”
Next month, thanks to the support of USAID, we will begin work on a third minefield in Kusapat, helping to lift the shadow of the landmines from the village for good.