A British NGO has begun recruiting and training citizens on how to clear landmines across Colombia, one of the most mine-infested countries in the world.
Colombia’s program director of HALO Trust, an international organization that trains people around the world about local landmine clearance, told Colombia Reports that they have already made headway in the central Colombian department of Antioquia.
“There are 14 already trained, and in February our goal is to recruit 40 more. We hope to have roughly 200 staff members fully trained by the end of 2013,” program director Grant Salisbury told Colombia Reports.
The Colombian government told HALO Trust that they could begin recruitment in December of 2012.
The motivation for international groups to pour their efforts into Colombia comes after a series of laws passed two years ago that permit international NGOs and local groups to engage civilians in the demining process. Up until that point, only Colombian military forces were allowed to conduct landmine clearance.
“We are only going to work in areas that are considered safe by the government,” Salisbury told AlertNet.
It is expected that humanitarian demining groups from Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway will also start operations in Colombia within a year.
According to the NGO, since 1990 Colombia has registered more than 10,000 deaths and injuries from landmines of which 982 were children.
As a signatory of the Mine Ban Treaty, Colombia has agreed to clear the country of mines by 2021.
If a peace agreement with the country’s oldest guerrilla group, the FARC, is reached, the need for more organizations to participate in the demining process could accelerate. Landmines contaminate significant amount of land around schools, houses and other civilian infrastructure in rural areas around Colombia.