The Colombian Navy closed 2022 with good news for the inhabitants of the department of Sucre on the Caribbean coast, declaring it free of antipersonnel mines. The efforts of the Humanitarian Demining Company, which cleared nearly 13,000 square meters of land, allowed the inhabitants to return to the fields to cultivate them, especially in the Montes de María region. The naval institution also carried out clearing work in six municipalities in the Bolívar department.
“We are grateful for the reassurance they’ve given us, because before we could not go out for fear of these explosive devices,” Aurel Martínez, who lives in the municipality of Carmen de Bolívar, Bolívar department, told the Navy. “Now we can use the land for agriculture, for livestock with more confidence, because we had that fear, and we couldn’t go out because we feared these artifacts; and [we are] also [grateful] for the work they have done in all the Montes de María since all the mountains had been hit by violence and there were many artifacts.”
In the department of Sucre, in addition to demining tasks, the Navy provided educational workshops on mine risks to the population, in order to prevent accidents with antipersonnel mines, unexploded ordnance, and booby traps. More than 660 inhabitants of areas where the clearance tasks were carried out received training.
The training seeks to instill in the inhabitants of the territories affected by the armed conflict safe conduct guidelines to avoid accidents with devices that may put human life at risk. “To carry out this priority mission, Colombian Navy personnel participated in a workshop led by eight peer facilitators in Mine Risk Education of the Organization of American States to acquire and deepen their techniques and knowledge in this preventive work,” the Navy said in a statement.
In 2014, the Colombian Navy and Army began demining work in fixed bases, and in 2016 in communities and civilian areas. Colombia’s Office of the High Commissioner for Peace (OACP), which consolidates official figures on humanitarian demining, informed Diálogo that between January 1, 2016 and November 26, 2022, humanitarian demining operations were completed in 30 departments (401 municipalities), corresponding to more than 9 million m2 cleared, in which authorities found 3,144 artifacts in total.
“Explosive devices have reduced the mobility of thousands of people, preventing them from accessing crops, health centers, water, workplaces, schools, and cultural spaces,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicated in its Overview of Humanitarian Needs in Colombia 2021 report.
According to the OACP, between January 1, 2016 and December 18, 2022 the national report of antipersonnel mines and unexploded ordnance victims was 901 people — 808 injured and 93 killed. Among these, 41.51 percent were members of the Public Force and 58.49 percent were civilians.