MYURISHEN, Nagorno-Karabakh—In a global first, The HALO Trust, an international non-profit, has launched a $30,000 crowdfunding campaign to clear a minefield in Myurishen village, Nagorno-Karabakh.
It is a 1.8-acre minefield that endangers 500 people in Myurishen and the neighboring village of Vazgenasheg in Martuni Region, Nagorno-Karabakh. Clearance would prevent accidents and allow the community to use the safe land to gather wood, graze their animals and forage without fear.
There have been at least five people injured in landmine accidents in Myurishen since 1995. The HALO Trust cleared three minefields in the village between 2007 and 2011, removing 38 anti-personnel mines, two anti-tank mines and three other explosive items. The minefield being cleared through crowdfunding is the only minefield remaining.
The crowdfunding appeal is part of a larger campaign – Safe steps for the people of Karabakh– to clear all the landmines in Karabakh with an impact on civilians by 2020. An anonymous donor has pledged half of the $8 million required – if The HALO Trust can raise matching funds.
Mikhail Merjumian, a landmine victim and a resident of Myurishen whose house is located half a mile from the minefield said “I am very grateful that the minefield is being cleared. It means that there is hope for the village, that the next generation can live in safety.”
Andrew Moore, The HALO Trust’s Regional Director, said “We are taking this new approach to fundraising because Karabakhi Armenians have suffered from landmines for over 22 years. They are more likely to be victims of landmines than inhabitants of almost any country in the world – a third of the victims are children. Landmines also cripple the economy by denying families the use of their land for farming.”
The HALO Trust, the world’s largest humanitarian mine action organization, has worked in Karabakh since 2000. It is the only agency clearing landmines and cluster bombs with a staff of 170 men and women who were recruited locally.