Landmines are an international danger, but no country except Afghanistan suffers as much as Colombia, where landmines buried across the countryside killed 285 people, including 40 children, last year alone.
Over the past 25 years, more than 11,000 Colombians have been wounded or killed by landmines and other unexploded ordnance.
So one week after signing a historic peace pact with FARC guerilla fighters, the Colombian government sent a delegation of eight to Israel for lessons from the Defense Ministry’s National Mine Action Authority on how to clear land mines.
The groundwork for the mission was laid last May, when Israel attended a meeting in Bogota with officials from the United States and Norway to determine how best to help the Latin American country.
“Landmines are singularly dangerous because they can lie dormant for years, only to kill and maim innocent people without warning,” blogged US Secretary of State John Kerry from the meeting.
“At current mine clearance rates, decades will pass before the country is mine free. The United States and Norway believe that timeline is not acceptable. That’s why we are leading a global effort to increase resources and technical expertise to help Colombia win the battle against these indiscriminate tools of war in the next five years.”
Israel may be involved in other initiatives as Colombia heals from five decades of deadly clashes, including helping farmers replace FARC’s cocaine-producing coca plants with food crops.
“Israel and Colombia are old friends,” one Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post, adding that Israeli help in mine-clearing efforts in Colombia is a “humanitarian civilian” project.