The HALO Trust (Hazardous Area Life-support Organization) is a non-political and non-religious registered British charity and American non-profit organization which removes debris left behind by war, in particular land mines. With about 6,000 deminers worldwide, HALO's largest operation is in Afghanistan, where the organization operates as an implementing partner of the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA).

HALO Trust
Halo trust.jpg
The stone installed by HALO Trust after checking the territory for mines, Ochamchira district, Abkhazia
Founded1988; 32 years ago (1988)
FounderGuy Willoughby, Colin Campbell Mitchell and Sue Mitchell
TypeNon-governmental organization, Non-profit organization
HeadquartersThornhill, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Area served

HALO's global headquarters are located in Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. HALO has US offices located in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California.


The organization was founded in 1988 by Guy Willoughby and Colin Campbell Mitchell, a British member of Parliament, former colonel in the British Army and his wife Sue Mitchell. Guy Willoughby won the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award in 2009.[1]


In terms of removing landmines and Unexploded ordnance (UXO), the HALO Trust has destroyed over 1.5 million landmines, over 11 million pieces of large calibre ordnance and over 200,000 cluster munitions. Around 10,800 minefields have been cleared and 87,316 acres (353.36 km2) have been made safe from landmines, with another 361,956 acres (1,464.78 km2) made safe from unexploded and abandoned ordnance.

In September 2015, when Mozambique declared itself free of all known landmines,[2] HALO announced that it had cleared 171,000 of the country's landmines and employed 1,600 Mozambican men and women over the course of twenty-two years.[3]

In December 2015 The HALO Trust announced that it had cleared 200,000 landmines in Sri Lanka. James Cowan, CEO said "Whilst we have much progress to celebrate in Sri Lanka today, there are still many landmines posing a serious threat to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. The Sri Lankan government has set a target of 2020 for Sri Lanka to be mine-impact free, but we need long term donor commitment to reach that goal." [4]

In May 2016 HALO announced that it had secured approval from the Israeli and Palestinian authorities as well as eight religious denominations to clear landmines from the site of the Baptism of Christ.[5]

The trust has a budget of approximately £25m (approximately $40m). It receives support from the UK government and other governments around the world including Finland, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland and New Zealand. In 2014, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office supported HALO with £2.8m.[6]

In 2012, HALO was named the Overall Winner in the Charity Awards by Civil Society Media.[7]


In February 2015, James Cowan was appointed HALO's chief executive officer. Cowan is a British Army officer who commanded the 3rd UK Division after a 33-year army career.[8]

Cowan replaced Guy Willoughby who resigned from his role as chief executive of the trust on 11 August 2014.[9] He had been suspended in the wake of an investigation into his pay package, which included reimbursement for the costs of his children's school fees. Many international organizations, including the UN, routinely pay private school tuition for children of employees,[10] but the investigation led to a "deterioration in the relationship between him and the board."[11]


Southeast AsiaEdit


Over 63,500 landmine and ERW casualties have been recorded in Cambodia since 1979,[12] and with over 25,000 amputees Cambodia has the highest ratio per capita in the world.[13] Despite a considerable reduction in casualty numbers over recent years, down from 875 in 2005[14] to 269 in 2008,[12] Cambodia's mine and ERW problem still represents a major impediment to the social and economic development of the country. However, given more than 18 years of humanitarian demining, the landmine threat is now largely concentrated in just 21 north-west border districts.[15]

In these rural districts the landmine problem continues to negatively affect much-needed development by hindering access to:

  • Land for agriculture and resettlement
  • Infrastructure and basic social services
  • Irrigation and safe drinking water
  • Secondary and tertiary roads
  • Land for cattle raising and foraging for forest products;

as well as:

  • Placing financial and emotional hardship on families needing to care for a landmine survivor
  • Causing psychological trauma for those forced to live alongside such a threat[16]

HALO Cambodia currently has over 1,150 national staff working in the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Otdar Meanchey and Pailin. Recruiting, training and then deploying female and male deminers from the mine affected districts means that the landmine contaminated communities remain an integral component in the clearance process. Living and working in these communities, deminers are methodically ridding Cambodia of the landmine menace.[16]

Between 1991 and May 2010, HALO Cambodia cleared over 6,115 hectares (15,110 acres) of landmine contaminated land whilst destroying over 229,000 landmines, 139,200 items of large calibre ammunition and 1.28 million bullets.[16]

Alongside clearance work HALO's survey teams have continued to systematically clarify the nature and magnitude of landmine contamination in Cambodia. The current focus of HALO's survey teams is the Baseline Survey of Cambodia, a Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) led process to quantify the true nature of the remaining mine threat in Cambodia.[17]

Sri LankaEdit

The collapse of the (2002) ceasefire agreement in 2006 and escalating fighting severely constrained the pace of humanitarian aid and demining. The LTTE's defeat in May 2009 led to a new government focus on demining as a prerequisite for resettlement of people displaced by the conflict.[18]

HALO has been working in Sri Lanka since 2002, with 1,045 demining staff currently in the provinces of Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mulaittivu. HALO teams conduct manual and mechanical mineclearance alongside survey and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).[19]


One of the results of the Vietnam War (1964 to 1973) is the magnitude of the UXO problem remaining in Laos. During the conflict, the country was subject to heavy aerial bombardment, resulting in the world's largest contamination from unexploded submunitions. The US estimates that it dropped over 2 million tons of bombs, including 270 million cluster munitions (known locally as "bombies"), during this period. During the same period, an unknown number of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines were laid along the country's borders and around military bases and airfields.[20]

While the number of mine and UXO related accidents continue to decrease from over 200 per year in the 1990s to about 50 in 2018,[21] over 25% of all villages in Laos still remain contaminated, primarily with UXO.[22]

HALO's survey, EOD and UXO clearance program is focused on the four most contaminated districts in Savannakhet Province. As of 2017, its staff numbered 303 (45% women), forming 10 clearance teams and 14 survey teams. For 2018 it had permission to expand the efforts to 14 districts for a total of 538 villages.[20]



The Government of Mozambique announced that the country was free of all known landmines in September 2015.[23]


For more than 40 years, the population of Angola has been severely impacted by landmines and other ERW, and is believed to still be one of the most mined countries in the world.[24] Between 1962 and 1972, it is believed that there were a total of 2,571 landmines incidents in Angola.[25] Estimates for the total number of ERW casualties in Angola vary hugely, from 23,000 to 80,000.[26]

HALO has worked in Angola since 1994. Considerable progress is being made; even so, HALO estimates that there is still in the region of 10 years' work to rid Angola of all landmines.

To tackle the threat from AT mines on roads, HALO developed the Road Threat Reduction (RTR) system. RTR is a two part process: first, systematic sweeps are made with a large detector to find metal-cased AT mines; this is followed by heavy detonation trailers designed to detonate any minimum metal mine still capable of operating. HALO also fields Weapons & Ammunition Disposal teams working in support of the Angolan Army, Navy, Air Force and Police to manage the considerable stocks of weapons and ammunition that were amassed during the Civil War.

By 2015 HALO had cleared more than 780 minefields (21,500 hectares of land) and destroyed more than 90,000 landmines and 160,000 items of unexploded ordnance. The majority of ammunition destroyed is made up of aircraft bombs but includes guided missiles and cluster bomb sub-munitions.[27] More than a decade after the end of the war, accidents continue to occur and communities continue to be impacted by the threat of mines.


Mine removal operation northeast of Hargeisa

Somaliland is an unrecognised de facto independent state located in northwest Somalia in the Horn of Africa.[28]

Minelaying occurred during the 1964 and 1977-78 border wars with Ethiopia, when minefields were laid predominantly along the Ethiopian border. This border and important access routes were heavily mined.[29] The civil war caused large-scale population displacement from the principal cities of Hargeisa, Burco and Berbera. The conflict, which had its roots in grievances over power sharing and the state control of economic assets, was portrayed by the government as a struggle between SNM nationalists (defending Somaliland's independence) and government federalists advocating a relationship with Somalia.[30]



HALO Trust staff members explaining the danger of mines to school students in Tbilisi during the "Landsmine Free Caucasus" campaign organized by the Europe-Georgia Institute.


HALO fields demining staff both in Georgia proper and in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.


Abkhazia was declared mine free on 3 November 2011.

HALO surveyed Abkhazia between 1997 and 2000 in close cooperation with both sides from the conflict.

Although all known minefields have been cleared, Abkhazia is mountainous and sparsely populated and it is possible that small, currently unknown minefields will be discovered. A capacity is needed to deal with such finds and in 2012 four previously unknown mined paths were discovered and cleared by HALO.

Furthermore, significant quantities of unexploded and abandoned ordnance continue to be found and present a danger to the public. These items need to be dealt with promptly when found in order to minimise this threat.

Soviet Legacy minefieldsEdit

The bulk of the remaining mines problem in Georgia comes from minefields laid around former Soviet military bases. These include former military bases, remote border areas and training areas which have returned to civilian use.[31]

In 2009, a national survey of minefields remaining in Georgia found a total of 15 contaminated sites. Of these 15, ten are identified as having a direct humanitarian impact. HALO is currently working on two of these minefields and hope to clear a further seven by the end of 2011.[32]

The clearance of minefields surrounding former Soviet military installations in Georgia is often complicated by significant quantities of waste and rubble. HALO have mechanical mineclearance techniques to clear such sites using adapted civil engineering plant such as armoured excavators and front-loading shovels.[32]

HALO currently employs over 100 staff in Georgia, the majority of whom come from within the mine-affected communities.[32]

Cluster munitions and other UXOEdit

The American NGO CNFA partnered with HALO to target the delivery of agricultural assistance to the farmers of Shida Kartli; this resulted in the region's largest ever apple and wheat harvests.[33]

HALO completed work in this region in December 2009 having cleared 3,402 hectares (8,410 acres) of land across 22 communities. 1,706 cluster munitions and 2,031 other items of ordnance were located and destroyed.[32]

Nagorno KarabakhEdit

School posters in Karabakh educating children on mines and UXO

Nagorno Karabakh Republic is a disputed region in the South Caucasus. Internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, it is populated primarily by ethnic Armenians, who declared independence in 1988. This resulted in Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1992 to 1994, which ended with a ceasefire that left Nagorno Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani provinces controlled by Armenians.[34]

Since 2000 HALO has provided the only large-scale mine clearance capacity in Nagorno Karabakh and over the last 10 years HALO has cleared over 236 square kilometres of contaminated land and returned it to previously impacted communities. By mid-2010, HALO had found and destroyed in Nagorno Karabakh over 10,000 landmines, 10,000 cluster munitions and 45,000 other explosive items.[35]

In July 2011 Azerbaijani government blacklisted and banned the organization from Azerbaijan in protest for its mine clearing operation in disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. Mine removal equipment that was headed to Afghanistan was impounded and sent to Georgia.[36][37]


In 1997, HALO began working in Chechnya, training Chechens to remove landmines placed in the 1994–1996 war between Chechnya and Russia. It was forced to stop after a second war broke out and four deminers were killed by rocket artillery. Russia accused HALO of providing rebels with military training, but HALO representatives denied the charge, stating that they only provided their standard training in demining.[38][39]


Mine laying, predominantly by the army of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia but also by the Kosovo Liberation Army, took place primarily in 1999. In addition to the many items of UXO resulting from the conflict, the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 left unexploded cluster munitions in many locations across Kosovo.[40]

HALO maintained demining and battle area clearance operations between 2004 and 2006 and conducted a country-wide Community Liaison Survey in 2006 and 2007. This survey identified 126 areas still in need of clearance, above and beyond the 46 areas recorded in the national database. HALO commenced a third phase of clearance operations in May 2008.[40]

In total since 1999, HALO has cleared over 38 hectares (94 acres) of mine contaminated land and 1,263 hectares (3,120 acres) of cluster munition contaminated land. In the process, HALO has destroyed 4,330 mines and 5,377 cluster submunitions and other explosive items.[40]

Cluster munitions have an impact upon infrastructure projects and HALO has found and destroyed cluster munitions of road widening projects. Occasionally clearance cannot keep up with development and at least one cluster munition was uncovered by road construction teams in 2010.[40]

The World Bank's Kosovo Poverty Assessment 2007 classifies 45 percent of Kosovo's population as "poor", living on less than €1.42 per day, with a further 18 percent considered to be vulnerable to poverty.[41] 15% of the population is extremely poor, which is defined as "individuals who have difficulty meeting their basic nutritional needs".

HALO currently has three teams and a total of 65 demining staff accredited and deployed clearing minefields and cluster munition strikes.[40]


Since 2016 HALO is involved in clearing landmines laid during the War in Donbass.[42]

South AmericaEdit


The Colombian military have now completed clearance of 31 of the minefields they laid but an estimated 10,000 suspected NSAG minefields remain. These have largely been the reason why Colombia now has similar landmine casualties to Afghanistan.[43]

In 2013, Colombia had between 4.9 and 5.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs), the world's largest number.[44] These populations are now experiencing high casualty and accident rates as they return to their areas of former residence.[43]

The Colombian government formally invited HALO Trust in June 2009 to implement a large-scale civilian clearance program which is currently in the survey and assessment stages.[43]

HALO is the first civilian organisation to have a formal agreement and registration with the Colombian government and is currently surveying prioritised mined areas in preparation for humanitarian clearance operations.[43]


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  2. ^ "Mozambique: Nation Declared Free of Land Mines". 17 September 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2018 – via AllAfrica.
  3. ^ Smith, David (17 September 2015). "Flash and a bang as Mozambique is declared free of landmines". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Scots charity in landmine milestone". 11 December 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2018 – via
  5. ^ Sanchez, Raf (15 May 2016). "British land mine charity made famous by Princess Diana wants to clear explosives from the site of Jesus Christ's baptism". Retrieved 16 May 2018 – via
  6. ^
  7. ^ Mason, Tania (3 December 2012). "How the Halo Trust won Overall Winner of the Charity Awards 2012". Civil Society Media. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
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  10. ^ "UN Conditions of Service-Education Grant". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  11. ^ Mendick, Robert (26 October 2014). "Chief of mine charity made famous by Princess Diana and backed by Angelina Jolie quits". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  12. ^ a b Landmine Monitor Report 2009 (Cambodia:Scope of the Problem:Casualties), online at
  13. ^ Statistics care of the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System (CMVIS), contact Mr. CHHIV Lim, CMVIS Project Manager,
  14. ^ Landmine Monitor Report 2006 (Cambodia:Landmine/UXO Casualties), online at
  15. ^ Landmine Monitor Report 2009 (Cambodia:Scope of the Problem:Contamination), online at
  16. ^ a b c Archived April 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ According to the Royal Government of Cambodia's Mine Ban Treaty Extension Request, the Baseline Survey 'aims to supersede previous L1S contamination and to define remaining contamination through a national land classification system'. Page 5, Kingdom of Cambodia, Extension Request to the President of the Ninth Meeting of the States Parties, Mine Ban Treaty.
  18. ^ Landmine Monitor Report 2009 (Sri Lanka:Ten-Year Summary)
  19. ^ Archived April 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ a b "Lao PDR". Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor. ICBL - CMC. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  21. ^ Convery, Padraic (21 November 2018). "US bombs continue to kill in Laos 50 years after Vietnam War". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
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  34. ^ "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 16 May 2018.
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  37. ^ Lomsadze, Giorgi (9 July 2011). "Baku Confiscates Afghanistan-Bound Mine Clearance Equipment". Retrieved 8 July 2011.
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  39. ^ Charlton, Angela (10 August 2000). "Russia accuses British mine-clearing charity of aiding Chechens". The Independent. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  40. ^ a b c d e Archived March 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ "Kosovo Poverty Assessment" (PDF). Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  42. ^ (in Ukrainian) Echoes of War. How do the Ukrainians renovate the Donbas, Ukrayinska Pravda (10 July 2018)
  43. ^ a b c d Archived May 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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External linksEdit