HALO’s Ukrainian staff have conducted mine clearance in the eastern regions of Kramatorsk and Mariupol since 2016. At the start of the Russian offensive in February 2022 we were embedded in communities and uniquely positioned to respond rapidly to the crisis.
Since Russia's invasion we have built a new clearance operation around Kyiv to respond to the urgent humanitarian need caused by mines, cluster bombs and other unexploded dangers. We are now expanding operations into Kharkhiv and planning for operations in newly-liberated areas such as Kherson.
While on the ground clearing land we are also undertaking a rapid expansion program to train hundreds of new staff each month. We are now the largest international mine action organization in the country. With fleet, logistics and manpower already in place, HALO has been able to move rapidly in response to changes in the conflict thanks to the flexibility and extent of donor support. HALO also benefits from six years of strong links to the Ukrainian authorities.
In the north, around Kyiv Oblast, HALO is dealing with anti-vehicle mines laid around former defensive lines in places where Russian forces temporarily occupied in March-April 2022. In Chernihiv we are uncovering a more complex picture in a mixed urban and rural environment with unexploded munitions as well as mines. We are conducting surveys of hazardous areas around newly-liberated Kharkiv while also planning for operations in the south around Mykolaiv and Kherson, which the Russians withdrew from in early November 2022. In these areas, which were occupied and fought-over for months, the contamination picture is likely be a higher density of hazards from a wider variety of munitions.
Some media reports estimate that the Ukrainians have been expending 6,000 to 8,000 shells a day in the south, many of which will have failed to detonate. Additional complexity will be unexploded remnants of high-tech western weapons systems with which Ukrainian forces have been supplied and thermobaric weapons which Russia has admitted using. The extensive use of drones for both reconnaissance and as a weapons delivery systems, will necessitate a new approach to the wreckage of UAVs.
At the outset of the February conflict, HALO immediately began a risk education campaign to alert Ukrainians to the dangers in their streets, fields and forests. In addition to in-person classes, HALO has run a social media campaign warning people of the dangers that has been seen by 17.7 million Ukrainians.
HALO has also developed its largest ever conflict mapping database. Since the start of the fighting, HALO has been scraping data from multiple open sources to pinpoint individual conflict points. The assembled database now contains over 12,000 datapoints and will allows us to identify the areas where the greatest concentration explosive hazards pose the greatest threat.
We currently have around 600 staff in Ukraine with more mid-way through their deminer training. In addition to deminers, HALO is training around 35 new risk education teachers to supplement our existing teams. By the end of 2022 HALO should have a deployment strength of 700 staff working to keep Ukrainians safe.
HALO is supplementing its pre-war logistics capacity with additional armoured excavators, tillers, rotary mine combs and remote-controlled clearance vehicles. HALO knows from three decades of experience in war zones that the largest risk to civilians is immediately after frontlines move and local people wish to return to their homes.