Today, April 4, is International Day for Mine Awareness.
Colombia has the world’s second highest number of land mine victims after Afghanistan, according to the International Campaign to Ban Land mines.
Between 1990 and December 2012 land mines killed more than 2,100 people in Colombia and wounded more than 8,000, according to government figures. Most of the victims are children who unknowingly pick up the strange and unknown object.
All sides in Colombia’s conflict have planted land mines which can detonate decades after being buried.
In 2000, Colombia’s government signed the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, aimed at eliminating all anti-personnel land mines. The treaty commits countries to destroy their land mines 10 years after ratifying the treaty, but Colombia had its deadline extended to 2021.
Now, Halo Trust, a British NGO, is training local volunteers to clear out the mines. The volunteers are mainly farmers from the same hamlets where the mines are located. Each volunteer gets $325, room and board, transportation and medical and life insurance.
Halo Trust estimates over 10,000 potentially Suspect Hazardous Areas (SHAs) exist in Colombia. In regions that the Colombian military now control these mines are still present and are preventing the civilian population from returning and developing the area.
Halo Trust has been carrying out de-mining operations for the past 25 years in 15 countries, including places like Afghanistan, Angola, Laos and Somalia.