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HALO Trust transfers staff and equipment to Afghan earthquake response

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The HALO Trust, the world’s largest landmine clearance charity, has transferred hundreds of its staff in Afghanistan from mine clearance to respond to the earthquake in the provinces of Khost and Paktika.

HALO teams were first on the scene in the badly-affected Spera district of Khost on June 22 when they reached the earthquake zone from minefields in neighbouring Nangahar Province. HALO teams include doctors and medically-trained personnel as a matter of course, so gave immediate medical triage and treatment to people injured in the earthquake.

On June 23, a convoy left HALO's Kabul compound to take excavators, normally used for mine clearance, to the affected provinces to be used for opening roads and routes closed by the earthquake. The convoy also transported additional relief supplies of food, cooking gas bottles and kitchen kits to 300 homeless families in Paktika Province. The heavy machinery was deployed to Gayan and Barmal districts in Paktika.

Subsequently HALO has provided 4x4 ambulances and medical care, along with the Afghan Red Crescent, CARE and IRC who have all deployed mobile health teams. HALO mobilized 100 deminers to construct tented camps for homeless families and for use as tented field hospitals in the Gayan District in Paktika province. focusing on providing additional medical treatment to those affected.
HALO is also supplying the camp with water and other sanitation supplies.

A key need in the earthquake zone is heavy mechanical equipment to move rubble and demolish dangerous structures. The risk of disease from decomposing animal carcasses under toppled buildings has made HALO’s mechanised equipment and drivers an essential tool. More armoured mechanised excavators are being sent to the affected areas from HALO minefields.
In one village, Popaly in the Barmal District, where 150 people are thought to have been killed, landslides diverted a stream and caused the only source of water for the village to dry up. As well as despatching an excavator to restore the stream to the village, HALO’s teams have distributed food, water and kitchen kits to the village.

Callum Peebles, HALO’s head of Central Asian operations, said: “Our teams visited an isolated village in Gayan district where 16 women had been too worried to approach a doctor to treat their injuries. HALO medics were able to offer them support and will provide regular treatment. During this visit, we heard stories of young babies who have lost their mothers and as such cannot be breast-fed. Most of the livestock who could provide milk were also killed. HALO is planning to bring milk powder and bottles.”