Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Congressman David G. Valadao visited The HALO Trust operations in Nagorno Karabakh today to view the humanitarian demining programme that he helped fund as a member of the US House Appropriations Committee.
Congressman Valadao (R-CA) was given a full briefing on the landmine problem affecting the territory when he visited HALO’s compound in Stepanakert. HALO staff demonstrated manual demining techniques and provided a brief on the types of mines that have been laid across Nagorno Karabakh.
The territory was littered with landmines during conflicts at the end of the Soviet era and in the early 1990s. For many years, the people of Nagorno Karabakh had one of the most lethal landmine problems per head of population, anywhere in the world, with 370 civilian casualties from landmines recorded after the conflict ended. The HALO Trust, which employs 210 locally-recruited deminers, has been the only humanitarian organisation present in the territory clearing landmines since 2000. It has now cleared 90 per cent of all minefields in the territory.
Ash Boddy, HALO’s regional director for Nagorno Karabakh and Kosovo, briefed Congressman Valadao. He said: “It was an honour to demonstrate how HALO is making Nagorno Karabakh a safer place and to brief Congressman Valadao, whose support in Congress has provided crucial funding for HALO to continue much of its life-saving work here. With the right level of support HALO can clear Nagorno Karabakh of landmines by our target date of 2020.”
Following the visit, Congressman Valadao stated, “Families in Nagorno-Karabakh live under the constant threat of landmine accidents and I am grateful for the efforts of The HALO Trust to make Nagorno Karabakh a more safe and secure region.” He continued, “While their work is renown worldwide, I appreciated witnessing their work and learning more about their efforts and dedication firsthand.”
Other visitors to the HALO HQ included Raffi Hamparian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Robert Avetisyan, Permanent Representative of Nagorno Karabakh in the United States, Armine Alexanyan, Deputy Foreign Minister of the territory and Maria Mehranian, President of Armenia Fund, Inc.
On September 7, the United States House of Representatives voted to include in the 2018 appropriations bill, Congressman Valadao’s amendment to ensure funding for ongoing de-mining projects in Nagorno Karabakh. The amendment ensures funds for HALO’s ongoing demining projects in Nagorno Karabakh.
Over the last 16 years, HALO has destroyed over 11,000 landmines, 180,000 pieces of small arms ammunition, 12,500 cluster bombs, and almost 50,000 other explosive items in Nagorno Karabakh.