First Civilian-cleared Minefield in Colombia handed back to the Local Community

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In March HALO completed clearance of El Morro minefield, 200 metres from the town of Puerto Venus. Over 2,000 people live in close proximity to this minefield and, the month before HALO started clearance, a local father and son found two mines on the path through the minefield to their house. HALO located and destroyed an additional eight landmines during demining operations. The area is now safe, allowing residents of the town to reach their fields and children to attend school.

A handover ceremony took place in Puerto Venus attended by over 100 beneficiaries together with local government authorities, community representatives and the Organisation of American States (who conduct external Quality Assurance of humanitarian demining operations in Colombia). Along with the cleared area being formally handed over, beneficiaries walked through the cleared area and viewed photos and descriptions of the landmines cleared.

This was followed by lunch and a soccer match played between the Puerto Venus and HALO women’s teams. This competitive match resulted in a 2 – 2 draw.

In addition to the minefield handover, a delegation from HALO Colombia’s largest donor, the US Department of State, visited current mineclearance tasks in the vicinity and reviewed future plans. The visitors included representatives from Washington and the US Embassy in Bogota.

The US currently funds eight (of 12) Mineclearance and one (of five) Survey teams with additional funding gratefully received from the Governments of Japan and the UK, and the European Union (through UNMAS).

HALO is currently clearing a further seven minefields, with survey teams working ahead in other municipalities of Antioquia Department.