At 7 AM on a recent Monday morning, the staff of the HALO Trust gathered at their compound in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. This summer, tension has been running high amid frequent exchanges of gunfire along the line of contact separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.
Amid the constant chatter of the rising risk of a resumption of all-out warfare in Karabakh, HALO Trust staffers are continuing their work of trying to eradicate a pernicious legacy of the conflict. As the world’s largest humanitarian mine clearance organization, the HALO Trust has had a permanent presence in Karabakh since 2000.
“There are currently 210 staff working at 15 sites,” Amasia Zargarian, the Caucasus Program Support Officer, told EurasiaNet.org.
Since 1995, landmines have caused 370 civilian casualties in Karabakh, one of the highest per capita rates in the world. At its peak in 2004, 43 casualties involving mines and unexploded ordnance were recorded. By 2016, that figure fell to just a single incident.
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Stephen M. Bland is a freelance journalist who covers the Caucasus and Central Asia.