Handicap International Launches Demining Operations in Colombia
Handicap International (HI) has launched demining activities in the department of Cauca, in Colombia, the second most affected country after Afghanistan.
As a result of armed conflicts in Colombia over the last fifty years, 31 of the country's 32 departments are polluted by mines and explosive remnants of war. More than 11,400 people have been victims since 1990.
After conducting investigations to verify the exact location of the hazardous areas, HI is currently deploying a first demining team consisting of about ten people in the Venta area of the Cajibío municipality (Cauca department). This first operation should last forty-five days.
"This 615-square-meter area is located roughly 20 meters from the Pan-American Highway, which makes it harder for the deminers to work. The noise from the road makes the metal detector signal inaudible. And the numerous metal scrap that accumulates on this ground reinforces the uselessness of these detectors. The deminers cut the grass gradually and dig the ground manually. It is a difficult job that requires concentration and patience to minimize the risks,” explains Pauline Boyer, Coordinator of demining activities for HI in Colombia
"Our teams are made up of many members of indigenous communities. By depolluting these lands and allowing them to be re-cultivated, they strengthen the economic development of their communities. And they ensure a lost security and tranquility," adds Pauline Boyer.
HI will subsequently delineate other areas in the Cauca (Caloto and Corinto municipalities), then in the departments of Meta (municipality of Vistahermosa) and Caqueta (municipality of San Vicente del Caguán). The association is also continuing its activities to raise awareness of the risks of mines and explosive remnants of war in communities and provides support to mine victims, including rehabilitation sessions and legal support to make sure their rights are respected.