The UN managed a large clearance program in Kosovo between 1999 and 2001 which resulted in the 2001 declaration by the UN that Kosovo was free of mines. Since then over 4,500 mines and more than 4,500 cluster munitions have been cleared by the limited capacity provided by all the agencies remaining in Kosovo. The Kosovo Mine Action Centre (KMAC) acknowledges that over 100 minefields and cluster munition strikes remain in need of clearance and HALO’s country-wide survey conducted in 2006 and 2007 suggests that the figure is closer to 150 sites but the precise extent of the remaining problem is not currently known.
Minefields remain in rural areas in which impoverished communities rely on agriculture and woodcutting as their primary sources of income. Although human casualties due to mines are rare, many mine impacted communities have lost cattle and horses, and there is the constant danger that expanding economic footprints around such communities will result in individual land users attempting to access some of the many hectares of land currently denied to them by landmines. The picturesque and unspoilt mountainous landscapes in Kosovo’s south and west have the potential for a lucrative tourist industry but these are the areas most affected by mines.
Cluster munitions remain in many areas both on the surface and buried. Similarly to the threat posed by mines in Kosovo, cluster munitions impact most on the financially marginalised elements of society who rely on scrap collecting, woodcutting and cultivation for their livelihood. A number of bombed buildings across Kosovo remain in need of mechanical clearance including one in the heart of Germia Park in the capital, Pristina. These sites have not been cleared because of the technical difficulty of doing so and the need for specialist armored machinery.
The World Bank’s most recent poverty assessment of Kosovo, from May 2011, found that 35% of Kosovo’s population is classified as living below the poverty line, calculated at $2 per day per adult. In Ferizaj and Gjakova regions, two of those most affected by mines and in which HALO has focused operations in recent years, the proportion of the population living in poverty rises to 54%.