01 April 2010
Landmine Ladies: de-mining with HALO in Sri Lanka
It’s only 9am but already it’s over 30 degrees in the ‘Vanni’, the rice-bowl region of northern Sri Lanka. Yet Saila Jan, a 29 year-old mother of two, has already been at work for a couple of hours and is now taking a well earned break from the paddy field she’s been toiling away in. Despite the heat, she smiles:
“It’s very hot already, the sun is very strong, but I don’t mind”.
So far, so ordinary; it’s a scene that could be anywhere in south Asia. Except that Saila isn’t harvesting rice - she’s collecting a crop of a very different, very deadly kind. She’s on the hunt for land mines.
There are an unknown number of land mines littering the once verdant landscape of the Vanni. They’re a deadly legacy of the violent 26-year-long conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or ‘Tamil Tigers’) movement, which finally ended in May 2009. Saila knows all too well just how violent this conflict was; it cost her husband his life.
"I used to work as a co-ordinator in a rehabilitation centre, but had to leave because of the conflict. Then my husband was killed in the fighting. Now my mother has to look after my daughters, while I do this work”.
Find out more about Saila and HALO's work in our feature and photostory
Fear free living in Cambodia
Cambodia remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, despite the fact conflict there ended more than 13 years ago.
In the last 10 years over 6,000 people have been maimed, injured or killed, while remaining mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) not only stops rural farmers from cultivating their land, but prevents villagers from living ordinary lives.
See how UK charity Mines Action Group is making a difference.
Clearing the 'devil's garden' in Afghanistan
HALO are also carrying out life-saving de-mining work in Bagram district, north of the capital, Kabul - clearing land once labelled the ‘devil’s garden’ after it was heavily mined by the Soviets, before later being abandoned by the Taliban in 2001.
Watch our film about HALO's work in Bagram
Rwanda: land-mine free at last
Guernsey-based charity, The Mines Awareness Trust (MAT), has spent the past three years working with the Rwandan government to clear 1 million m² of land – or roughly 140 football pitches - of explosive devices left behind from the civil war and genocide in 1994.
DFID’s support is helping draw the deadly sting out of millions of square miles of land in countries recovering from the pains of recent conflict.
Inches beneath the surface of countries like Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, millions of mines and munitions lie unexploded, a chilling legacy from their recent past.
About 70 countries remain affected by landmines, which claimed nearly 5,200 casualties around the world last year.
The UK has actively supported mine action since 1993, donating more than £100 million in that time.