Australia has allocated a further $800,000 in foreign aid funds toward Sri Lanka’s efforts to become landmine-free by 2025.
The new commitment will go to MAG International, an organisation working to destroy landmines and help people rebuild their lives after conflict. According to MAG, Australia's funds will transform an additional 190,000 square meters of contaminated ground into a sustainable, productive and safe source for almost 8,000 people.
Australian Deputy High Commissioner Victoria Coakley said the benefits of demining are extensive.
Not only does safely removing landmines undeniably safe lives, Coakley explained it also allows communities to establish critical ecotourism, agricultural and construction infrastructure on previously inhabitable land.
"Australia has been a consistent supporter of mine clearance in Sri Lanka since the end of the 26-year conflict in 2009. Our commitment to demining has contributed to the safe resettlement of displaced people, their ability to earn a livelihood and has supported development in areas of greatest need,” Coakley said during a visit to MAG's work in north-west Sri Lanka. “I am pleased to be here today to announce a continuation of our support to Sri Lanka to become landmine free, to save lives and ensure a future for communities living in, or who wish to return to, these areas.”
The latest aid injection follows almost $20 million in Australian foreign aid funding committed between 2009 and 2015.
In partnership with MAG and local demining organisation Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony (DASH), the funding has expanded Sri Lanka's ability to remove mines by providing equipment for metal detectors, mine-risk education and victim assistance and advocacy.
"In the last two years alone, the partnership between MAG Sri Lanka, DASH and Australia has enabled the removal and destruction of over 2,200 explosive items,” MAG Country Director Valentina Stivanello said in a media release. “It has helped many people to rebuild their lives and livelihoods in Mannar, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi districts through its clearance operations.”
The island nation of Sri Lanka was engulfed in a brutal civil war between 1983 and 2009.
Across almost three decades, large pastures of Sri Lanka were littered with tens of thousands of landmines by both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — which sought to create an independent Tamil state — and the Sri Lankan military.
In 2009, displaced Sri Lankans attempted to go home, but the likelihood of facing unexploded mines, hand grenades and bullets hindered the safe return of many. For those that did return, unexploded remains of war remained a constant threat — especially during activities like fetching water and walking to school.
Over 300,000 landmines and other explosive matter have already been cleared throughout Sri Lanka. According to the Guardian, the remaining mines threaten the poorest and most economically vulnerable individuals in the nation.
Landmines affect a quarter of all countries — but only 0.2% of global overseas aid is dedicated to their clearance.