Field of action 2: Humanitarian mine action on the ground

Switzerland is directly involved in countries and regions affected by mines and other explosive ordnance. It prioritises clearance, risk education and victim assistance. In accordance with the principle of helping people to help themselves, it particularly supports the development of sustainable national capacities.

Map showing the countries in which Switzerland is active in humanitarian demining.
On the ground, Switzerland is focussing on mine clearance, risk education and victim assistance. © FDFA

Through projects and the deployment of experts, Switzerland increases the security of the people affected and enables sustainable development.

Clearing mines and explosive ordnance

Clearing mines and other explosive ordnance prevents suffering and contributes to sustainable development. Displaced people can return, fields can be cultivated again and destroyed infrastructure can be rebuilt.

Dealing with the legacy of the war in northern Sri Lanka

Even 15 years after the end of the civil war, some internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka are still unable to return home because their villages and fields are contaminated by mines. The Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) is therefore supporting the international demining organisation The Halo Trust to clear minefields and make these areas safely accessible again. Switzerland is focusing on the north, which was particularly badly affected by the war and is still suffering from its consequences today. As part of the Swiss project, almost 350 anti-personnel mines and over 50 other explosive remnants of war were cleared in 2023. More than 1,500 people have benefited directly from the project, in particular through the resumption of agricultural activities in the demined area.

A woman working for the organisation The Halo Trust searches for mines in a forest with a mine detector.
Deminer from the organisation The Halo Trust working in northern Sri Lanka. © The Halo Trust
A woman working for the organisation The Halo Trust searches for mines in a forest with a mine detector.
Deminer from the organisation The Halo Trust working in northern Sri Lanka © The Halo Trust

Sri Lanka aims to have completed mine clearance on its territory by 2028. The PHRD is therefore also supporting the NGO Mines Advisory Group in developing and implementing a transition strategy for hundreds of deminers, so that they can be re-employed in other sectors of the economy once the demining work is complete.

Victim assistance

After a sharp decline until 2013, the number of victims of mines and other explosive ordnance has risen sharply in recent years. In 2022, at least 4,710 people were injured or killed as a result of mines and other explosive ordnance. Victim assistance is an integral part of humanitarian demining. Those affected often require lifelong support. Victim assistance includes emergency and ongoing medical care, rehabilitation, psychological and psychosocial support and socio-economic integration.

Support from victims in Colombia

Various armed conflicts are taking place in Colombia. Non-state armed groups continue to use anti-personnel mines. By the beginning of 2024, Colombia officially recorded 12,409 victims of mines and other explosive ordnance, 96 of whom were registered in 2023. Of these, 61% were civilians.

The FDFA's Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports the NGO Humanity & Inclusion (HI) in Colombia. This organisation is active in the field of humanitarian demining, including the rehabilitation of mine victims by providing assistance to affected persons. Survivors of mine accidents are supported by people with similar life experiences. In 2023, 330 people benefited from this, including 28 mine victims.

Andres Betancourt is a survivor of an explosive device accident in 2006 who took part in HI's project. "HI and Pastoral Social" (a local partner NGO) provided him with psychosocial, legal and socio-economic support. Today Andres works voluntarily as a psychosocial counsellor and supports other mine victims, especially when they arrive at the hospital.

Andres Betancourt © Humanity & Inclusion

Education about the risks of mines and other explosive ordnance

Mine and explosive ordnance education prevents new accidents, promotes behavioural change and saves lives. In view of the ongoing use of mines and the increase in new victims worldwide, this commitment is particularly important.


In Syria, the SDC supports the NGO "Humanity & Inclusion", which assists victims of mine accidents and organises awareness-raising measures on the risks of mines and other explosive ordnance. These include information events for local communities living in affected areas, such as those organised by the humanitarian demining team in Idlib and Aleppo. The aim is to raise the population's awareness of the risks of explosive ordnance. Various methods are used, such as wall drawings, theatre performances, entertainment, songs, competitions and the distribution of motivational material tailored to the needs of children.

Syrian children watch a cartoon film in a hall.
Children taking part in risk awareness training at the Atmeh School (Syria). © Humanity & Inclusion

Capacity building in affected countries

Humanitarian demining is only sustainable and relevant if the personal responsibility of the people most affected is strengthened. Switzerland supports the development of sustainable national capacities within the framework of projects and deploys mine action experts from the armed forces to UN mine action programmes. It also promotes training courses with partners such as the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and UN organisations such as UNICEF, UNOPS, UNMAS and UNDP.

Swiss expertise for the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS)

Since September 2022, Switzerland has deployed a technical expert to the UNMAS headquarters in New York to apply his expertise on improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He works in a specialised team, the Threat Mitigation Advisory Team, which supports the UN in strategic planning and develops guidelines to minimise the risk to UN personnel in the field. Standardised training programmes are developed to mitigate IED threats. The programmes not only serve peacekeeping countries, but also benefit humanitarian missions and national capacity building. The team also monitors and tracks new IED trends and mitigation techniques and technologies. This will enable UNMAS and the UN system to anticipate and mitigate the impact of IEDs in all mission areas through a coherent and coordinated approach in these areas.

Personnel from the UN mission MINUSCA search for mines near a bridge with mine detectors.
The Swiss IED expert in action during the preparation of a contingent of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in Burundi. © UNMAS

Focus Ukraine

Since February 2022, Ukraine has become one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. It is estimated that almost a third of Ukraine's territory, an area four times the size of Switzerland, is potentially contaminated by mines and other ordnance. In view of this, Ukraine, long known as the breadbasket of Europe, cannot fully resume agricultural production. Mines and other explosive ordnance endanger the lives of farmers working their fields and children playing outside. All too often, tragic accidents occur. Humanitarian demining is a top priority and a prerequisite for the reconstruction of the country.

In 2023, Switzerland significantly expanded its commitment to humanitarian demining in Ukraine and increased it to a total of CHF 15 million. Two core partners are the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the Fondation suisse de déminage (FSD). The GICHD provides Ukraine with training, strategic support and technical advice to strengthen the capacities of state institutions. FSD has expanded its involvement in Donbass, which began in 2015. It conducts surveys, clearances and education on the dangers of explosive ordnance in the eastern regions of Ukraine and is expanding its activities to the southern parts of the country. In addition, the SDC also supports UN efforts, in particular to clear agricultural land of mines and explosive ordnance and to support affected farmers. This also strengthens global food security. Last but not least, in August 2023, the DDPS handed over a demining machine from the Swiss foundation DIGGER to the Ukrainian civilian disaster relief service (State Emergency Service of Ukraine, SESU).

On 29 September 2023, the Federal Council approved a package of CHF 100 million over four years (2024-2027) to clear civilian areas in Ukraine of mines and enable the reconstruction of the country. Half of the funds will be provided by the DDPS and half by the FDFA. This allows Switzerland and its partner organisations to expand their efforts and increase the impact of their contributions to Ukraine. The FDFA (PHRD, SDC) and the DDPS are closely coordinating the implementation work and working together with various partner organisations.

Video about Switzerland's commitment to humanitarian demining in Ukraine:

Last update 04.04.2024

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