Although a bilateral ceasefire has silenced the guns around San Rafael, Colombia, the search for landmines — a legacy of 52 years of civil war — goes on. At the frontline of clearing the mine-riddled mountains and jungle are war widows and ex-combatants, laboring under the supervision of the British-based Halo Trust. “I never imagined I’d be looking for mines,” widow and mother of two young children, Noralba Guarin, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“At the start of the day, the first thing you think is that I know that here in front of me, there could be mines where I haven’t yet cleared,” she said. “I have to be cautious and careful and follow what I’ve been taught and trained to do to the letter,” said the 26-year-old.
Most of the landmines — improvised from readily available and inexpensive materials — were planted by drug-running FARC guerillas, to deter government troops and to protect their coca fields. Guarin said she has to reassure her children that she is facing the danger with a lot of caution and careful training, adding that the work of the Trust aims to allow thousands of displaced Colombians to return home. “So many families who basically don’t know much about the war. They don’t know how many years Colombia has been at war, or who it involves, but what they do know is the horror it has caused among their families, and in their own communities,” she said
Watch Noralba Guerin clearing landmines in Colombia:
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