HALO’s Ukrainian staff have conducted mine clearance in the eastern regions of Kramatorsk and Mariupol since 2015. At the start of the Russian offensive in February 2022 we were embedded in communities and uniquely positioned to respond rapidly to the crisis, coordinating an emergency response, including the delivery of life-saving risk education.
Since Russia's invasion we have built a new clearance operation, initially based near Kyiv, to respond to the urgent humanitarian need caused by mines, cluster bombs and other unexploded dangers. The expansion of our operations now encompasses the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions.
Ukraine is one of the breadbaskets of the world, but the country’s agricultural land has been decimated by mines and explosives. HALO estimates that up to 2 million landmines may have been laid since February 2022. Making land safe is fundamental to save lives and support Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction and economic recovery.
Over the last two years, HALO has scaled up its efforts to address the vast scale of explosive contamination, employing over 1,200 Ukrainian staff, nearly 30 per cent of whom are women. We are now the largest international mine action organisation 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 and local communities and we continue to work in close collaboration today.
Olena, Deminer, HALO Ukraine
HALO has also developed its largest ever conflict mapping database. Since the start of the fighting, we have been scraping data from multiple open sources to pinpoint individual conflict points. The assembled database now contains over 101,000 datapoints. This information helps us to identify the areas where the greatest concentration of explosive hazards pose the greatest threat.
DEMINING AT SCALE
Mine clearance operations in Ukraine are intricate and challenging, with new and evolving explosive threats creating an extremely complex situation. In Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions, over 70 per cent of minefields or battle areas assessed by HALO for clearance contain tripwire devices, magnetic influence mines (which can be activated by the presence of metallic objects and a change in the magnetic field around the mine), or seismic influence mines (activated by vibrations in the earth). In response, HALO Ukraine is transforming the approach to land preparation and clearance using advanced survey techniques and the targeted deployment of mechanical clearance assets. Thanks to the support of donors, we are investing in the intensive trialing of new machinery and methodologies so we can clear land more efficiently and more safely. For example, using remote-control vegetation cutting machinery (Robocuts) to disable tripwires and make explosive items easier to locate.
Ivan, NTS Team Leader, HALO Ukraine
Our operations have achieved significant milestones since 2022, with over 3.15 million square meters of land released for safe use, including vital agricultural areas, essential for food security. Ukraine is typically responsible for six per cent of all calories traded on the global market, and prior to the war, along with Russia, accounted for a quarter of global wheat and grains exports and 80 per cent of sunflower oil exports.
Our comprehensive approach has also seen the clearance of over 19,000 mines and explosives and the execution of 1,550 Explosive Ordnance Disposal callouts, underscoring our commitment to making Ukraine safer for its people. Through our extensive survey efforts, we have evaluated explosive hazards in almost 1,600 communities, declaring nearly half of them as safe to inhabit again.
In order to keep people safe from the mines and explosives, especially in newly liberated areas, HALO has also been running risk education sessions, in-person, online and via targeted social media campaigns. Nearly 245,000 people have attended in-person and online sessions and a three-month social media campaign at the end of last year had a reach of over 34 million.
Two years on from the invasion, we continue our commitment to saving lives and restoring livelihoods in Ukraine.
*Statistics correct as of February 2024.