Handicap International celebrated the release of 46,505 square meters of land from five minefields in Deir Billa, Lebanon on August 31. The land had been contaminated with landmines and other explosive remnants of war during Lebanon’s civil war, which ended more than two decades ago.
“This tremendous work will not only bring increased safety to the people living and visiting the village, but will also allow socioeconomic development opportunities for the owners and their families of all cleared minefields, as well as the community,” said Chris Chenavier, Handicap International’s Head of Mission for Lebanon.
The work took a year and a half, and was made possible thanks to the daily support of the Lebanese Mine Action Center, as well as the people living in the Deir Billa who provided demining teams with information and facilities. The operations were generously funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, along with other contributors.
U.S. Ambassador David Hale thanked Handicap International at the ceremony. “For decades, this area around us was covered with landmines left over from Lebanon’s painful civil war,” he said. “The mines were a danger to the villagers and made the land unusable for agriculture. Thanks to the efforts of the LMAC and mine action organizations like Handicap International, Deir Billa has been completely cleared of land mines. This area can now be used for farming or homes.”
The U.S. government has invested more than $54 million in demining efforts in Lebanon. Ambassador Hale added, “We are dedicated to continuing our support for Lebanon’s stability, security, and prosperity in the years ahead.”
Handicap International has worked in Lebanon for more than a decade, removing landmines and cluster munitions, which are a significant cause of disability worldwide. These weapons often instill fear in whole communities, deepening poverty and acting as a significant barrier to development.
“Handicap International will continue supporting Lebanon toward its objective of freeing the country of the impact of landmines and other unexploded ordnance for as long as that support is needed,” Chenavier said.
“I would like to thank and show my deepest gratitude to all Handicap International’s staff and particularly to all the deminers, conducting a dangerous job every day to allow Lebanon to be a safer and more prosperous place for now and for future generations. Your work is outstanding and we are all proud of you, be safe!”
More than 50 people attended the event, including Qa’im-Maqam Tobia, Mayor of the District of Batroun; General Nassif, Director of the Lebanese Mine Action Center, and his staff; and Mr. Mrad, head of the municipality of Deir Billa.
Handicap International has supported victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war since its founding in 1982. Since then, the organization has expanded its mine action work to include weapons clearance; education programs to teach at-risk communities how to spot, avoid and report remnants of war; and advocacy for the ban of landmines and cluster munitions through the Ottawa Treaty and the Oslo Convention, respectively.