HI’s mine action in Colombia continues
Humanity & Inclusion (HI) continues to implement its mine clearance activities in Colombia despite the Covid-19 crisis and an upsurge in violence.
Picture demining in Colombia | © Juan Manuel Vargas/HI
In 2019, more than 5,500 people were killed or injured by anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war worldwide. Eighty percent of victims were civilians, of whom 43 percent were children. According to figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the first half of 2020, 181 people were killed or maimed by mines in 14 departments of Colombia.
In Colombia, the second most heavily mined country in the world after Afghanistan, HI has led mine clearance operations since 2017 (more than 600.000 sq.m. of land) in three departments worst affected by internal violence: Cauca, Meta and Caquetá.
Thanks to the support of the United States of America via the US Department of State’s office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, the Swiss Embassy in Colombia - Swiss Development Cooperation, and donations from thousands of individual donors worldwide, HI’s Colombian team takes a holistic approach to mine action. Teams teach civilians to understand the risks posed by mines and what to do if they come across these deadly, disabling devices. Explosive ordnance technicians clear mines. And specialists assist victims of explosive devices to regain their strength and independence with rehabilitation care, psychological support, and access to inclusive employment.
HI continues its efforts despite growing internal violence and population displacement, the emergence of new illegal armed groups who plant explosive devices to protect coca crops and deter rivals, and the Covid-19 crisis.
Constantly adapting to local developments
Despite this complex situation, HI continues to adapt its working methods in order to pursue other related activities. The organisation developed a "safety plan" to continue working while implementing personal precautionary measures against the Covid-19 epidemic and trained more than 100 HI salaried staff members and voluntary workers as "community focal points" to raise the mine risk awareness of fellow villagers.
HI also released 62,179 sq.m. of land in hazardous mined areas for farming, an act that also enhanced the safety of more than 30,000 people. In the town of Inzá in the Cauca department, teams implemented "non-technical" surveys by asking villagers if they knew the whereabouts of local mines in order to identify mined and unmined areas. HI also worked to ensure that locals understood the risks of mines, and released 16,058 sq.m. of land.
Supporting the government: Ottawa Convention
In November 2020, Colombia’s deadline to meet its commitment under the Ottawa Convention to clear areas of the country contaminated by explosive devices was extended to 2025. HI has provided the Colombian government with technical support to revise and update national standards, including the development and revision of the 2020-2025 demining plan.
In 2021, HI expects to completely clear the municipalities of Cajibio and Puracé (Cauca) of mines and to release more safe land in Vistahermosa (Meta), Inzá, Páez and Santander de Quilichao. The organisation also hopes to expand its footprint soon.
HI also continues to assist mine victims with disabilities. This support includes providing them with rehabilitation sessions, psychosocial support, and legal assistance to advance their rights. It also extends to support their caregivers, and encourage their ability to land decent jobs in inclusive work environments.