Iraq continues to be one of the most contaminated countries in the world with landmines and unexploded ordinance. Today, on the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the United Nations calls for more progress to eliminate the threat of landmines to Iraqis.
“Landmines and unexploded ordinance continue to affect Iraqis terribly, restricting their access to essential services and, in the worst cases, maiming and killing them,” said Mr Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq.
“Efforts must be scaled-up to heal the wounds of past wars and remove this menace, once and for all, from the lives of Iraqis.”
It is estimated that more than 1730 square kilometres of land in Iraq is contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordinance, affecting 1.6 million Iraqis in around 4000 communities across the country.
Of these, nearly one million children are affected by the presence of landmines with hundreds having been maimed or killed by exploded cluster bomblets since 1991. The most recent Iraqi child victimized is a twelve-year-old boy who lost one eye and both his hands from a munition that exploded when he was herding sheep near Basra in March, 2013.
“It is tragic and unacceptable that children continue to have their lives forever damaged by the presence of landmines,” said Dr Marzio Babille, UNICEF’s Representative to Iraq. “With determined effort, all landmines and unexploded ordinance in Iraq can be eradicated; we call on all actors – the Government of Iraq, international community and private sector – to coordinate to permanently eliminate this threat from the lives of Iraqi children and their families.”
Due to a shortage of funding, the UN’s Mine Action Programme will come to an end by mid-2013. As a result, the UN appeals to the Government of Iraq to urgently fund humanitarian mine action activities, such as de-mining and mine risk education, to improve the living conditions of Iraqis affected by landmines.
“The health impact and the cost of treatment for the victims of injuries and trauma caused by landmines, including long-term disabilities are issues that
must be addressed urgently and collaboration among all actors is required," stated Dr Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative to Iraq.
The United Nations Development Programme has been leading the UN’s Mine Action Programme in Iraq, with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supporting mine risk education activities and the World Health Organization providing emergency health assistance to victims of exploded ordinance.