Explosive Land

 

 

In 2013, on the afternoon of the 13th of November, Arsenio was on the way back to his temporary house in Taraz√°, a small municipality in the Antioquia Department, when he tripped and fell over a landmine.Fire, a strident buzz and then total darkness. He lost almost all of his fingers and his chest was pierced by shrapnel.But his face took the brunt of the explosion and since that moment a black veil covers his eyes. Arsenio Conde, now 27 years old and totally blind, is part of a red list of victims of landmines in Colombia, a list that is growing day after day. This work, made in collaboration with Halo Trust, aims to bring awareness not only about the harsh conditions on the ground but also about the compromise some young local citizens are taking to reduce this scourge. Since 1990 more than 11,000 people, both civilian and military have been injured and killed by landmines in Colombia (there have been more than 2 thousands victims since 2010). These figures make Colombia the second most affected country in the world, after Afganisthan. An explosive menace that still taking many victims today in Colombia where almost the totality of the landmines are makeshift lowcost devices, unlike the majority of the conflicts where these explosives items come from industrial factories. Like Arsenio, there are many other people suffering from the same tragedy. The loss of inferior limbs is the most common consequence of these bombs popularly known as “leg-breakers”. But together with these casualties many others have died in these explosions. It is estimated that some 2,200 people have been killed by landmines and cluster munitions since 1990. Halo Trust, an international NGO focused on civil humanitarian demining, has been on Antioquia, the most affected Department, since 2013. Today there are more than 150 local workers trained in mine detection, removal, and deactivation of these explosive devices. With the logisitical coordination of Halo and the financial support of countries from the EU, the United States, Japan, and even Afganisthan, young men and women from affected areas are being trained for this important mission. Their physical health, knowledge of the local environment and weather patterns, as well as their close relations with local communities make them the best prepared to tackle the demining process. For these workers the effort, and arduous trips up and down the region’s remote mountains and valleys, the prolonged distance from family, and the high risks of the work are instantly rewarded when a landmine is successfully deactivated and its destructive potential removed from their communities lands.