Demining in Lebanon: Handicap International restores land to villagers
An official ceremony held to mark the return to local people of land cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war by Handicap International paid tribute to the organisation’s weapons clearance operations.
Handicap International deminers in North Lebanon | © G. Dubourthoumieu / Handicap International
A total of 46,500 square metres of land cleared of weapons by Handicap International were returned to the inhabitants of the village of Beir Billa, in northern Lebanon, at a special ceremony organised jointly by the organisation and the Lebanon Mine Action Center on August 31. The ceremony was held in the presence of David Hale, the ambassador of the United States, one of the main funding bodies of weapons clearance projects in Lebanon.
“These areas were extremely dangerous; no one dared go near them for decades,” explains Chris Chevanier, Handicap International’s head of mission in Lebanon. “They’re safe now and people can farm them again and organise development projects once more.”
The surface area of the land cleared in Beir Billa is the equivalent of six football pitches! It took four teams of weapons clearance experts from Handicap International eighteen months to complete the task. The mines and explosive remnants of war made safe had been left over from the civil war (1975-2000).
Handicap International began its clearance actions in Lebanon in 2006, following the incursion by Israel into the south of the country, to clear land contaminated by cluster munitions. Since 2010, the organisation has been working in the North Lebanon province, clearing land contaminated by anti-personnel mines laid during the civil war.