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US Government to help fund clearance of unexploded Second World War bombs before Solomon Islands Pacific Games

US Government to help fund clearance of unexploded Second World War bombs before Solomon Islands Pacific Games
February 22, 2023

The USA's Department of State has provided US$1 million in funding towards the ongoing clearance of unexploded ordnances (UXO) from the Second World War in the Solomon Islands before this year's Pacific Games.

The funding is being directed to The HALO Trust to run the initiative which will be held in conjunction with the country’s Ministry of National Police and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

The South Pacific nation was a key battleground during the Second World War and its islands, including Guadalcanal, are littered with remnants from land and sea clashes between Allied and Japanese forces.

As part of US President Joe Biden’s plans to re-establish better relations with countries in the Pacific and help counter the growing influence of China in the region, the USA has provided more than US$6.8 million to the Solomon Islands since 2011 to establish a national capacity with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to identify and destroy UXOs from the Second World War.

This has included training 13 engineers who have conducted more than 1,200 UXO callouts and destroyed more than 29,746 items of unexploded bombs.

Estimates suggest that every year more than 20 people are killed or seriously injured in the Pacific when one of the thousands of unexploded Second World War-era bombs left behind by the USA and Japan are set off.

In 2020, two men were killed in the Solomon Islands helping clear unexploded bombs as part of the preparations for the 2023 Pacific Games.

Briton Stephen ‘Luke’ Atkinson, aged 57, and Australian Trent Lee, 40, were working on behalf of non-Governmental organisation Norwegian People’s Aid.

They were killed in the blast in the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal.

As part of the latest initiative, the USA will work together with Solomon Islands officials to use existing data and historical records, as well as conducting search activities to update the national database.

The US funding will also provide technical advice while assisting the Ministry of National Police to establish a UXO coordination office to assist future initiatives.

Being held from 19th November until 2nd December this year, the Solomon Islands’ staging of the 2023 Pacific Games is expected to cost around SBD$2 billion (US$246 million).

The Solomon Islands Government is hoping the massive infrastructure work from the sporting event will give the local economy a much-needed boost.

Images: Aerial photograph from May last year showing the athletic track and the football pitch at the main the 2023 Pacific Games venue  in Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands (top, credit: Xinhua) and the Ministry of National Police and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force are coordinating efforts to clear the country of unexploded bombs (below, credit: Royal Solomon Islands Police).

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