The HALO Trust is a UK-based NGO, leading the effort to protect lives and restore livelihoods threatened by landmines and all the deadly debris of war. Currently working in around 20 countries and territories around the world, our landmine clearance is conducted to the highest standards and we are respected as a leader in the mine action sector.
Since 2000 HALO has been the only agency clearing the minefields and cluster munition strikes in Nagorno Karabakh resulting from the Karabakh War and we are one of the largest civilian employers in the country, with 270 Karabakhi Armenian staff. We recruit and train local men and women to clear the minefields that affect their communities.
Mine clearance in Karabakh has not only greatly decreased the casualty rate but it has also allowed roads, schools and housing to be built, water pipes to be laid, fields to be cultivated, livestock to be safely grazed and people to go about their daily business without fear. The benefits of the clearance are tangible and the cleared land can be safely used in perpetuity.
Following the outbreak of fighting in April 2016, we worked with the Nagorno Karabakh Rescue Service to conduct emergency clearance of unexploded ordnance, while maintaining our mine clearance.
THE FUNDING CHALLENGE
Nagorno Karabakh’s unrecognized status prevents many governments from funding humanitarian activities in the territory and HALO receives no funding from the Armenian Government. Until recently, our only major donor in Karabakh was the US Government, through USAID, but its funding is restricted to land within the Soviet-era boundary of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.
We have been fortunate to have the support of private foundations, ONEArmenia, individuals, and the Armenian diaspora, including through Landmine Free Artsakh. Otherwise, we have had limited private funds to clear minefields lying outside the Soviet boundary. Yet it is here that the majority of the remaining minefields are located so we are enormously grateful to an incredibly generous donor who has pledged to match fund the achievement of a mine-impact free Nagorno Karabakh.
MINE-impact FREE KARABAKH: WHAT WILL IT TAKE?
In 2015 a private foundation in the United States awarded HALO a grant, as a part of which the donor will match all new funding for the clearance of minefields outside the traditional Soviet-era boundaries of Nagorno Karabakh.
As the vast majority of people living with landmines are dependent upon the land, the clearance of all remaining minefields will not only stop accidents but it will allow families to return to their homes, farmers to cultivate their land and livelihoods to be restored. It would be a true landmark for Karabakh if it could put this deadly legacy of the war behind it and safely push on towards economic growth and development.