Donations from Diaspora Help Clear Cluster Bombs in Artsakh

Workers clearing mines in Karabakh

NORASHENIK, Artsakh—Generous contributions from Armenian Americans allowed for the clearance of cluster bombs, and all dangerous explosive items, from the village of Norashenik in the Kashatagh/Lachin region of Artsakh in October of 2013. Previously, father Virab Shaboian was afraid to let his children play in the garden. “I definitely have to say thank you to all the people who ensure the safety of my children, but also other children in this region. I am very glad that there are people who give money to this type of charity”, says Virab.

$11,000 was donated to the HALO Trust, the world’s oldest and largest mine clearance charity, to allow for complete clearance in the village last October. In total 12 cluster bombs and 28 other items of unexploded ordnance were found and destroyed in the village to make safe over 370 acres of land. Virab’s children can now play in safety, he can cultivate the land and the entire village of 105 is no longer in danger. The area can be used for grazing cattle, foraging for berries and mushrooms, hunting and collecting firewood without the fear of death or serious injury.

Norashenik Village was hit by a cluster bomb strike during the war. The 1992-94 conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan left behind hundreds of minefields and cluster bomb strikes. Though fighting ceased 20 years ago, the people of Nagorno Karabakh continue to suffer. In fact, Karabakh has one of the worlds highest per capita mine casualty rates – on a par with Afghanistan and surpassing Cambodia.

Landmine Free Artsakh is a group of concerned Armenians who have volunteered to help the HALO Trust clear all remaining landmines, cluster bombs and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from Artsakh. The mission is to generate awareness about landmine problems in Artsakh and to help fundraise to completely de-mine all villages. These villages are in the Lachin, Hadrut and Martuni regions where no international government grants and funds have been secured. Without private funding these minefields might never be cleared.

Unfortunately, there have been two recent accidents in February of 2014. On February 13th, Robert Abraamyan’s tractor initiated an anti-personnel mine while working on the side of the road from Drmbon to Alashan. On February 21st, Norik Abalyan was killed when his horse stepped on an anti-tank mine near Marzilu village, Martuni region. He was 50 years old and father of two children.

The group’s next project is clearing a minefield in Karegah Village, again in Kashatagh/Lachin Region only five miles from the Armenian border, where landmines have injured people and animals and prevent use of the land. Thanks to the generous donors from the United States and Canada $35,000 required funding has been secured and clearance is scheduled to begin in May 2014.

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