US$ 636,363 (approximately 115 million LKR) has been provided by the Japanese Government to the HALO Trust for humanitarian demining activities in Northern Sri Lanka. Japanese Ambassador Sugiyama Akira and Programme Manager of the HALO Trust Belinda Vause signed the grant contract virtually yesterday. The focus of the project will be ensure that minefields are safely demined to facilitate resettlement in those areas. The project is expected to directly or indirectly impact the livelihoods of over 5000 persons in the Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Jaffna districts. Sri Lanka aims to become the next mine impact free country in the world. 94,000 mines and other explosive remnants of war have already been removed with the support of the Government of Japan.
Since HALO began their work in 2002, they have cleared over 35 sq. km of contaminated land in Sri Lanka. Over 20% of their work was assisted by Japan. The organisation is the largest landmine clearance organisation in Sri Lanka, with almost 800 staff of whom 40 percent are women, many of who were previously displaced or are war widows with children to support.
Programme Manager of the HALO Trust Belinda Vause stated that the trust is extremely grateful for the continued support of the Government of Japan. Noting that Japan has an honorable history of providing humanitarian assistance to clear landmines in post conflict countries across the globe, she said that she felt that there were few places where it was more evident than in Sri Lanka. Noting the good work that has been done, she stated that such efforts pave the way for the future. “This has been achieved through the employment of hundreds of men and women in the post-conflict areas, providing a noble income. Once the land is cleared from these deadly legacies of war, it is safe to live upon or to farm again, enabling economic growth. To date the work of HALO’s Japan-funded mine clearance teams has helped over 200,000 people,” she said, adding that Japan is actively supporting the Government of Sri Lanka to reach their goal to become landmine free.