In a global first, The HALO Trust, an international non-profit, raised $30,000 to clear a minefield through crowdfunding. The campaign ran for 30 days and 228 donors from 16 countries contributed to clear the minefield in Myurishen village, Martuni Region, in Nagorno Karabakh.
The contributions will be matched by an anonymous donor committed to making Karabakh Mine Free. The additional $30,000 will kick start the next crowdfunding appeal in Harar village, Lachin Region.
Clearance of the 1.8-acre minefield in Myurishen will commence in the spring (when weather permits) and will take ten to twelve weeks to complete. The demining will be conducted by Karabakhi Armenian staff employed by The HALO Trust.
The project will benefit 500 Armenians living in Myurishen and the neighboring village of Vazgenasheg. It will prevent injury or death and release the village from the conflict of the early 1990s. It brings hope for the future and economic progress as clearance will enable a new access road to be built between the two villages and facilitate woodcutting and animal grazing.
The crowdfunding appeals are part of a larger campaign – Safe steps for the people of Karabakh – to clear all the minefields in Karabakh with an impact on civilians by 2020. The anonymous donor has pledged half of the $8 million required – if The HALO Trust can raise matching funds. There are 70 minefields remaining that require private donations.
David, 25, who lives in Myurishen village and earns a living by collecting firewood said: “My father and I collect firewood during the summer and autumn and sell it in the winter. I have seen dead cows blown up by mines and landmines sitting on the surface. I try to navigate a safe path where we have walked many times. When the minefield is cleared, our work will be better and more successful. I will be able to work safely and provide more for my wife and one-year-old son.”
Andrew Moore, The HALO Trust’s Regional Director, said: “We are grateful for the support from the global Armenian diaspora and others from around the world enthused by this lifesaving project. We have hundreds of new donors from around the world and we must now keep the momentum to ensure all steps are Safe Steps for the people of Karabakh.”
There have been 370 civilian casualties from mines and unexploded ordnance in NK since the end of the conflict in 1994. The HALO Trust, the world’s largest humanitarian mine action organization, has worked in Karabakh since 2000. It’s staff of locally recruited men and women, have cleared over 446 minefields while locating and destroying over 11,200 landmines and over 25,300 cluster munitions and other items of unexploded ordnance.