In the very south of Kosovo, just a few hundred metres from the Albanian border lies the small town of Gorozhup. Like many border areas, Gorozhup and the surrounding municipality of Prizren was heavily mined by Yugoslav forces during the 1998-1999 War.
Almost two decades later, local residents were still living in fear of the mines, frightened for the safety of their children and unable to use the land to graze livestock or collect natural resources. But in August 2017, thanks to funding from the Netherlands, HALO was able to begin work to make the land safe.
This week HALO welcomed the Dutch Ambassador to Kosovo Mw. Gerrie Willems to visit the minefield and meet the deminers working to clear the 50,000m2 site (that’s about the size of 100 basketball courts!)
By employing and training local people as deminers, HALO is not only working to remove the landmine legacy but also providing vital jobs in a country that suffers the highest levels of unemployment in Europe. Women are especially affected—last year 57% of working age women were unemployed. HALO Kosovo aims to tackle this problem, providing childcare stipends to enable women to access the workplace more easily and recently hired nine more women to join the team.
During her visit, Ambassador Willems spoke of the importance of seeing men and women working side-by-side to remove the remaining dangerous debris of war from Kosovo.
“We need to make greater efforts in the global community to ensure women are included and promoted into leadership positions. It’s very important to see just how vital this work is to Kosovo.”
For Ferdane Musa, one of HALO Kosovo’s most recent recruits, her new job is important not only for her own future, but also that of her young son.
“My family misses me a lot while I am here working, but I am here for my son and his future – both for his safety and for his education. I am very happy, I never dreamed that one day I’d be doing this, but here I am.”
The team will finish clearing Gorozhup’s minefield by the end of the year. The land will then be returned to the local community so it can be used once again for grazing cows and sheep and enjoying recreational activities. Over 250 people will benefit from the clearance work made possible by Dutch funding. For local people like Sejdi, who lives just across the border but frequently visits the area to see his son and granddaughter, the most important impact of HALO’s work is to finally feel safe.