South Scotland

The Halo Trust in Sri Lanka reaches landmine milestone

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Media captionDamian O'Brien, the charity's programme manager in Sri Lanka, says much work remains to be done

A Scottish charity has reached a significant milestone in its efforts to clear Sri Lanka of landmines.

The Halo Trust, which is based in Thornhill in Dumfries and Galloway, has cleared 200,000 landmines from the country.

Their work has enabled 160,000 people to safely return to their homes, after 26 years of civil war.

Damian O'Brien, the charity's programme manager in Sri Lanka, said the country could be mine-free by 2020.

"This year, even though we have had a drop in work force by about 70% we are still on target to clear about 10,000 so that gives an indication of the density of the minefields that are remaining," he said.

"The Sri Lankan government has declared a target of 2020 for the country to be mine impact free and if we are able to maintain our level of funding, then that is realistic."

Image copyright Halo Trust

About 300,000 people were displaced during the conflict in Sri Lanka, which ended in 2009.

The Halo Trust employs 500 Sri Lankans to survey and clear mines, mainly from the north of the island.

About 45% of the workforce are women, many of whom were widowed during the conflict and are now the sole breadwinners.

James Cowan, the charity's CEO, said: "Whilst we have much progress to celebrate in Sri Lanka today, there are still many landmines posing a serious threat to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

"Mines continue to present an obstacle to the safe return of internally displaced people and block access to paddy fields, fishing jetties, grazing land and community infrastructure.

"The Sri Lankan government has set a target of 2020 for Sri Lanka to be mine-impact free, but we need long term donor commitment to reach that goal."

Earlier this year the Halo Trust ended its 22 year campaign to clear Mozambique of land mines after it was declared officially "mine-free".

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