Armenian diaspora helps rid Karabakh of landmines

Life has been hard in the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh since the war of 1992-1994. Many families were forced to flee and those that remain live with the legacy of the conflict long after the ceasefire.

The deadly presence of anti-personnel, anti-tank mines and cluster munitions has kept many rural communities in poverty and caused terrible accidents. Indeed, it has one of the highest per capita rates of mine-caused injury or death in the world.

The support of the Armenian diaspora is crucial. Since 2012, Landmine Free Artsakh has helped HALO to raise $61,000 from amongst the global Armenian community to clear three villages outside of the traditional boundary. Over 3,500 villagers are now focused on cultivating their farm land and herding instead of worrying about losing family members or livestock.

Ojeni Sammis, chair of Landmine Free Artsakh, said:

I learned about HALO work clearing landmines and cluster bombs in Nagorno Karabakh during my first visit in 2004. Over the past 12 years I’ve watched HALO’s demining teams in action and listened to the heart-breaking stories of injured villagers. I was so touched by the need and so impressed by HALO’s efforts that I went home to Los Angeles to launch a grassroots campaign to generate awareness about the problem in Nagorno Karabakh and to help raise money to allow HALO to make all the villages safe.

Norashenik, in Lachin region, is one of the villages cleared thanks to Landmine Free Artsakh’s fundraising. Virab Shaboian is thankful he doesn’t have to worry about his children and he can finally cultivate his land:

I definitely have to say thank you to all the people who ensured the safety of my children and all the other children in this region.