A Deminer Working for the HALO Trust on the Job in Colombia
In several Latin American countries, decades of conflict have left behind a dangerous legacy: small arms and light weapons in unsecured stockpiles; excess and obsolete munitions; and hidden hazards from landmines and unexploded ordnance. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is working closely with partner countries and nongovernmental organizations to enhance Latin American regional security by funding conventional weapons destruction and landmine clearance projects. A team of PM/WRA experts recently went to Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras to participate in a landmine survivors’ assistance conference and take stock of progress to date and the challenges ahead for U.S.-funded humanitarian demining and weapons destruction projects.
The first stop was the Bridges Between Worlds conference held in Medellin, Colombia. With over 300 representatives from 36 countries and numerous NGOs in attendance, the two-day event focused on enhancing landmine survivors’ assistance and integrating survivor assistance policy into broader national policies regarding disability, health, education, employment, development, and poverty reduction. The conference location was especially significant; Colombia is one of the most landmine-affected countries in the world and is second only to Afghanistan in the number of disabled survivors of accidents involving landmines and unexploded ordnance.
Following the conference, our team visited landmine survivors in San Carlos, Colombia, along with staff from our partners at the Centro Integral de Rehabilitacion de Colombia (CIREC). CIREC is a Colombian NGO specializing in medical and psychological services for conflict survivors. With U.S. support, CIREC has deployed “rehabilitation brigades” to assist landmine survivors and other persons with disabilities throughout Colombia’s conflict-affected regions. CIREC’s rehabilitation brigades provide services in orthopedics, psychiatry, and physical and psychological therapy to those most in need.