The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) announced on Tuesday that the government of Denmark has renewed a $3.7 million donation it made last year to support the clearing of explosives left hidden throughout areas in Iraq liberated by the Islamic State (IS).
In a statement, Danish Ambassador to Iraq Gert Meinecke said, “The Government of Denmark highly appreciates the work of UNMAS Iraq, and remains committed to assisting the Government of Iraq in its efforts to address the unprecedented contamination of explosive hazards left behind by Da’esh [IS].
Before leaving an area, retreating IS fighters routinely hid hundreds of mines and explosive traps under roads, in houses, buildings, farmland, yards, and even among children’s toys. The presence of such hazards has substantially limited the return home of Iraqis displaced by the IS conflict and general humanitarian assistance in those areas.
Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager, said that the support goes a long way “to strengthen the response to the threat of unexploded ordnance… thereby enhancing community safety and facilitating the return of displaced people to their homes.”
According to UNMAS, water treatment plants and hospitals are also not being utilized, “as they are littered with explosive hazards.”
A coordinated response, said the UN agency, enables humanitarian actors and those living in conflict-affected areas to receive the urgent assistance they desperately need.
UNMAS reports that its teams have been facilitating humanitarian and stabilization activities in Mosul for over one year, starting in East Mosul in November 2016 and moving into West Mosul in November 2017.
During this period, UNMAS supported over 100 United Nations missions into liberated areas to provide advice on the potential explosive hazard threat. To complement the work already carried out by the Iraqi Security Forces, UNMAS has removed about 45,000 explosive hazards including 748 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) since January 2017.
In addition to thousands of IS-planted bombs, several landmine fields remain active on the Kurdistan Region’s border with Iran, there since the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.