A woman wearing protective gear kneels on the ground as she works to clear mines in Colombia

Mine action continues amid pandemic and violence

Humanity & Inclusion landmine clearance continues in Colombia despite the Covid-19 crisis and an upsurge in violence.

In the first half of 2020, mines killed or maimed 181 people in 14 departments of Colombia, according to figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In Colombia, the second most heavily mined country in the world after Afghanistan, Humanity & Inclusion has led mine clearance operations since 2017. Teams focus their work on three departments plagued heavily by internal violence: Cauca, Meta and Caquetá.

Thanks to the generous support of the United States of America via the U.S. 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, Humanity & Inclusion’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 devices. Explosive ordnance technicians clear mines. And specialists assist victims of explosive devices to regain their strength and independence with physical therapy, psychological support, and access to inclusive employment.

Adapting to new challenges

Humanity & Inclusion 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.

Despite this complex situation, Humanity & Inclusion continues to adapt its work to ensure safety of staff and civilians. The organization developed a safety plan to continue working while implementing personal precautionary measures against the Covid-19 pandemic and trained more than 100 staff members and volunteers as "community focal points" to raise the mine risk awareness of fellow villagers.

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Releasing safe land

Humanity & Inclusion released more than 15 acres of cleared land to allow farming in hazardous mined areas, enhancing the safety of more than 30,000 people.

In the town of Inzá in the Cauca department, teams implemented surveyed villagers on the whereabouts of local mines in order to identify mined and unmined areas. Humanity & Inclusion also worked to ensure that locals understood the risks of mines, and released another four acres of land.

Supporting government officials

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. Humanity & Inclusion 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, Humanity & Inclusion expects to completely clear the municipalities of Cajibio and Puracé in Cauca of mines and to release more safe land in Vistahermosa in Meta, Inzá, Páez and Santander de Quilichao. The organization also hopes to expand its footprint soon, working in close coordination with the Colombian mine action authority which coordinates clearance across the country.

Providing victim assistance

Humanity & Inclusion continues to assist mine victims with disabilities and their caregivers, providing physical rehabilitation sessions, psychosocial care, legal assistance and employment support to find gainful jobs in inclusive work environments.

Mines terrorize civilians worldwide

In 2019, more than 5,500 people – 80% of them civilians – were killed or injured by anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war worldwide. Of the civilian victims, 43% were children.

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Image: A woman wearing protective gear kneels on the ground as she works to clear mines in Colombia in 2017. Copyright: J.M. Vargas/HI