Issue 4.2 | June 2000
Established in 1988, The HALO Trust (Hazardous Life-Support Organization) is a non-political, non-religious British registered charity (No. 1001813) that specializes in removing landmines and UXO. HALO has 3,000 mine clearers working in six countries. HALO’s operations are grouped under Asia, Africa, and the Caucasus. “HALO is not distracted by involvement in campaigns and conferences. We have a simple statement, ‘Getting mines out of the ground, now,’” stated Guy Willoughby, Director of HALO.
HALO manages its own research and development and also works with scientific institutions. HALO has also trialed Ground Penetrating Radar, dog teams and mechanical equipment. The most successful rate of HALO’s R&D has been in the adaptation of existing agricultural and civil engineering plants. HALO has developed the standard European tractor mounted hedge and verge cutter and deployed 10 units to cut vegetation growth in Cambodia, Africa and the Caucasus, which gives safer access for deminers. Twenty medium-wheeled loaders have been adapted and armored for clearing rubble. Area-reduction vehicles have been designed to drive into suspect areas and define the “line” of laid mines. This allows for a better use of clearance time with deminers deployed closer to the actual mines.
HALO’s administrative staff is small. Emphasis is placed on developing local management. It trains its managers and deminers as well as mechanics, medical staff equipment technicians and drivers. Mine awareness trainers are also deployed on a limited basis. Its mine clearance teams use a variety of equipment with each deminer wearing protective clothing, face visor and outfitted with the latest state of the art metal detector. Local salary costs for deminers and equipment costs are the largest part of HALO’s budget. HALO is funded by a number of private donors, governments and NGOs.
Heavily mined during its 10-year occupation, all defensive forces laid mines to protect their main supply routes, particularly the road north from Kabul to the old soviet border. HALO estimates 640,000 mines were laid since 1979. Halo started its program in 1988, and now employs over 1,300 deminers, which are split into two 32 manual teams, 10 mechanical teams and six survey and UXO teams. The most common anti-personnel mines are the Russian PMN-2 with the distinctive black cross and the PMN. They account for the majority of civilian deaths. Front loaders, cranes and bulldozers have been armored to deal with the mines and UXO amid the rubble of the war torn villages.
During the 10-year Vietnamese occupation, both forces laid landmines. Mine laying increased during 1989-1991, as the Cambodian government used mines as sentinels. The opposition, to prevent the government from extending its areas of control, also laid mines. Highly mined areas include the northwestern provinces bordering Thailand, which had also been the most agriculturally productive and populated. HALO has over 500 deminers split into 16 manual clearance teams and supported by 17 tractor-mounted vegetation cutters.
clearance programs are underway in Mozambique and Angola, and extensive
surveys and UXO disposal have taken place in southern Sudan and Somaliland.
Anti-vehicle mines have been extensively used on African roads, and
although their effect has been less publicized than AP mines, they cause
a high number of civilian deaths.
This program encompasses all four northern provinces of Zambezia, Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado. The government used AP mines to defend provincial and district towns, airstrips, key bridges, power supplies and military posts. RENAMO, Mozambican National Resistance, laid anti-vehicle mines to close the roads connecting towns and markets. In the Zambezia and Niassa provinces, HALO has cleared the majority of the mine fields. The provinces of Nampula and Cabo Delgado will require another three years of concentrated clearance.
The Sudan is the biggest country in Africa. Success by the SPLA in 1997 resulted in the front line moving away from the Uganda/Zaire borders. As a result, over 50,000 refugees moved into the Kaya-Yei corridor. They found their villages mined and their fields littered with UXO. The center of Kaya had an ammunition dump. Anti-vehicle mines had been buried in the roads and until these were cleared rehabilitation could not start. Somaliland is extensively mined. HALO has surveyed the city of Burao in response to a request by the government of Somaliland. HALO has limited private funding for small programs in Southern Sudan and Somaliland and both countries require major donor support.
The Russian army has relied heavily on extensive bombardments in both the current and previous war with the Chechen forces. Air-dropped AP mines and wide mine fields around military positions hold the small country hostage.
In 1997, HALO surveyed 286 mined areas and was demining these areas with over 150 Chechens, but this and other programs had to be abandoned in December 1999, because of the fighting.
Mines are left over from the secessionist war with Georgia, which was characterized by front lines moving back and forth along the Black Sea Coast. Mines were laid in the flat fertile valleys to augment the natural obstacles of the rivers. These mines have denied land for over 300,000 displaced people. Homes, agricultural land, orchards and industry lie deserted. HALO deploys integrated manual and mechanical clearance teams, maintains a central mine database and a mobile bomb disposal capacity assists reconstruction.
In April 2000, The HALO Trust received 55 surplus Army vehicles from the British Ministry of Defense. This latest donation included Land Rovers, lorries and heavy-duty bulldozers with reinforced buckets that can scoop debris and mines safely. The undersides and cabs of the vehicles will be specially reinforced with armor plating to protect the driver. Some of the heavier equipment will go to Africa where plastic Czech anti-tank mines, which can not be detected manually, must be detonated by scraping away at gravel road surfaces until they detonate.