In 1999, NATO released over a thousand cluster bombs on Yugoslav targets in Kosovo, each one containing many smaller explosives. With a failure rate estimated at twenty per cent, tens of thousands of these unexploded items littered the ground or became buried in fields, gardens and school yards.
In 2001, despite clear evidence that many minefields remained in Kosovo, the United Nations declared the country to be mine free. HALO and other agencies protested against this decision, which condemned the people of Kosovo to a lifetime living in fear of landmines and cluster bombs.
Kaltirina Gashi, age 8, Kosovo
HALO started working in Kosovo immediately after the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops in 1999. We have cleared cluster bombs and landmines from an area the size of over 1,500 football pitches, so parents like Basri no longer fear for their children’s future.
We employ over 100 local men and women, creating opportunities in a country where there are few formal jobs prospects, particularly for women. After discovering childcare issues were a barrier to local women applying for work with HALO, we introduced childcare stipends in 2018.
In 1999, there were 18 mine clearance agencies working in Kosovo. Now, only two remain, but HALO is committed to creating a safe future for the people of Kosovo.
Only months after the war ended, Zejnepe’s husband, Afet, lost his leg in an explosion when he stood on a landmine while collecting firewood. In the years that followed, the family lived in fear of further accidents but, in November 2017, much to Zejnepe’s relief, our deminers finished clearing the minefield where the accident happened.