Clearing hazardous land in Colombia

A male deminer uses a metal detector in Colombia.

In launching mine clearance operations earlier this year in Colombia, Handicap International teams conducted initial surveys to pinpoint hazardous areas throughout the country. Following the results, HI deployed a team of ten deminers to Venta, which is in the Cauca department, for a 45-day operation. 

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In Venta, they have their work cut out for them. “The deminers can’t hear when their metal detectors go off because of the Pan-American Highway that is located 21 yards from the site,” explains Pauline Boyer, HI’s mine clearance coordinator in Colombia. “This makes their work more complicated.”

“There’s also a lot of scrap metal across the site which make metal detectors less useful. Mine clearance experts cut the grass, plot by plot, and dig the earth by hand. It’s tiring work. To minimize the risks, you need to focus and be patient.”

“Many of our teams are from indigenous communities. Once cleared, the land can be farmed again, boosting the local economy. People will also feel safer and less stressed,” she adds. 

COLOMBIA: ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST DENSELY MINED COUNTRIES

Colombia's conflict zones are littered with mines. According to official figures, more than 11,102 people were killed or maimed by anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war between 1990 and 2014—the second highest rate in the world. More than 1,000 victims were children. According to a Handicap International survey, 80% of survivors of armed violence have a disability.   

In addition to the project in Venta, our teams will clear other areas in Cauca as well as the Meta and Caquéta regions. Handicap International continues to make communities aware of the risks of mines and explosive remnants of war. We also provide assistance to mine victims through rehabilitation care and legal support. Learn more about our work in Colombia.

The three photos above are credited to P. Boyer and Handicap International.