The conflict in Syria began in 2011 and has resulted in the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. It was initially a conflict between the Syrian Government and internal opposition forces, but the dynamics changed as ISIS and other actors became involved.
An estimated 470,000 people have been killed during the conflict and over half the population have been displaced. Approximately 13 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance.
As a result of the conflict, over 8 million Syrian people are living amongst the deadly debris of war. The widespread use of aerially delivered weapons (including high explosive and incendiary bombs, and cluster munitions), artillery projectiles, mortars, rockets, landmines and improvised explosive devices (eg, booby traps) has left a legacy of explosive hazards that will continue to impact Syria for many years to come.
Classified more generally as Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), these items are preventing access to basic goods and services, impeding livelihood opportunities, restricting humanitarian aid and causing death and injury to people who live, work and play in affected areas.
HALO has been operating in Syria since 2016 and is currently working with two Syrian NGO partners to reduce the impact that explosive hazards have on communities. These partners have large networks of staff on the ground and their local knowledge and expertise facilitate safe access for HALO supported teams.
In southern Syria, HALO teams visit affected communities to survey ERW contamination and dispose of located ERW items. To date, the teams have visited 86 communities and disposed of over 600 items. The most commonly found items include cluster munitions which are highly volatile and pose a particular threat to children who are attracted to them because of their small and often shiny appearance.
In north western Syria, HALO teams teach people how to identify dangerous ERW items and act safely around them through a risk education programme. This is predominantly aimed at children who are particularly vulnerable to accidents but the programme also assists other high-risk groups like Internally Displaced People and people returning to their home locations who may not be familiar with explosive hazards in the areas they are travelling to or settling in. To date, the teams have reached over 175,000 people with lifesaving safety messages.
HALO is also working to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the size and scale of ERW contamination by surveying communities and collecting information about ERW incidents from accident victims. This information is used to map dangerous areas and identify places of highest priority for future ERW clearance.
HALO has made a long-term commitment to reducing the threat posed by explosive hazards in Syria. The scale of ERW contamination means that full clearance will likely take decades. HALO seeks to continue and expand current risk education and survey/disposal activities, enabling people across Syria to return safely to their homes, restoring livelihoods and facilitating access for humanitarian assistance.