Following the success of Abkhazia’s mine free declaration in 2011, HALO is now rehabilitating rural roads to improve infrastructure. This project, with $750,000 of funding from USAID and the European Union, involves rebuilding and restoring bridges, culverts and flood defences that have collapsed or are close to collapse, due to a lack of maintenance since the end the war in Abkhazia in the early 1990s.
A 2013 survey of people living in Abkhazia’s three eastern regions found that the most pressing concern after poverty was the condition of the roads, with 45% of people stating that it is one of their most urgent problems.
As HALO’s mine clearance in Abkhazia drew to a close, it was clear to HALO that a small continued presence would be needed to deal with the significant quantities of unexploded ordnance still being found by the public. It was also apparent that many of the rural communities that had benefitted from their land being cleared of mines were subsequently struggling to exploit it fully due to difficulties of access at certain times of year and the difficulty of getting produce to market. In a region dependent upon small-scale agriculture these are critical limits on the ability of communities to lift themselves out of poverty. These post-clearance development projects are helping them to do this.
Upon completion of works in the village of Makhundjia to install gabion protective walls to prevent the road to the regional town of Gali being washed away, Kukava Murtaz, the village administrator, thanked HALO:
In the twenty years since the war you are the first people to build something for us that will last.
Inclusiveness is a key element of the project. HALO is working closely with all ethnic groups and with the authorities at all levels. Such is the need for road repairs in Abkhazia that word of HALO’s work has spread and over 100 requests for further works have been received.
HALO’s project is also giving demining staff an opportunity to return to the jobs that they did before the war: the project is headed by a professional civil engineer who has worked in mine clearance with HALO since 1998. Also employed are specialist fabricators and builders who have previously worked for HALO as machine operators and deminers.