Following the completion of a U.S.-funded, 18-month demining project, the Nineveh provincial government assumed control of the Mosul International Airport during a turnover ceremony on November 5.

Demining teams from Janus, TetraTech, and local Iraqi partner Al Fahad carried out the project from April 2018 to October this year. Together, the contractors cleared more than 170 explosive hazards, including unexploded ordnances, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and bomb-making materials.

The U.S. contractors also cleared significant amounts of rubble, enabling the provincial government to start rebuilding the airport.

The United States is the largest donor to conventional weapons destruction activities in Iraq, investing more than $498 million since 2003 toward the clearance of landmines, IEDs, and other explosive remnants of war as well as for risk education.

U.S.-funded demining teams have cleared over 108,500 explosive hazards since 2016, including more than 17,000 ISIS IEDs.

This support plays an integral role in enabling the restoration of critical infrastructure, the delivery of basic services, the return of displaced communities, and the resumption of local economies safe from buried ISIS explosives and the threats they pose.

(Source: U.S. Embassy in Baghdad)

MAG teams up with Facebook to reduce casualties from ISIS mines in Iraq

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has launched an innovative project with Facebook and the US government to help people in northern Iraq learn how to stay safe from the landmines and unexploded bombs left behind after years of war.

The initiative uses Facebook’s advertising tools to deliver simple graphics to at-risk groups describing how to recognise dangers, how to stay safe if an explosive device is discovered, and how to alert the authorities to the problem.

The pilot project, which will run until November 2019, will target users living in Ninewa, a governorate in northern Iraq that is home to 2.5 million people.

Ninewa, and Mosul, its capital city, were heavily affected by the conflict between the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and Iraqi government forces. More than three years of conflict had a devastating impact on the area: more than 125,000 square kilometres of the governorate are now believed to be contaminated with improvised landmines and other explosive devices. Many landmines manufactured by ISIS are sensitive enough to be triggered by a child but powerful enough to disable a tank.

The initiative aims to reach at least 85 per cent of Facebook users in Ninewa—an estimated 1.4 million people—and will be supported by MAG teams working on the ground. A dedicated website (www.staysafefrommines.com) also contains essential information on how to stay safe from mines in three languages. The messages have already reached over 800,000 people in the region since the initiative launched in September.

Since 2016, MAG has removed more than 17,000 explosive items from Ninewa—many found in and around homes, schools, and health facilities. MAG teams have given risk education sessions to more than 175,000 people, teaching them how to recognise, avoid, and report explosives. These sessions are typically delivered in person by MAG staff. However, with tens of thousands of families continuing to return home after the fall of ISIS, there has been a need to develop a way to provide life-saving education to larger audiences, more quickly.

This need was the foundation of the collaboration between MAG, the US government and Facebook.

Portia Stratton, Country Director for MAG in Iraq, said:

Almost half of landmine victims are children, so it’s important as many people as possible learn how to keep their families safe until we can clear the danger.

“Our staff usually give lessons in-person, but that means the reach is limited and more costly. Using Facebook to get to hundreds of thousands of at-risk people via their phones could have a real impact in helping reduce the casualties from these devastating devices.

A spokesperson for Facebook said:

 “Facebook is honoured to play a part in helping reduce landmine casualties in Iraq. With so many now using Facebook around the world, ads are another way to share urgent information with communities who might be at risk. We hope that these messages in Iraq could one day save a life.”

Sol Black, Program Manager for Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen Emergency Response at the US State Department said:

As part of our constant search for new and innovative ways to keep people safe from explosive hazards left by ISIS in Iraq, the United States Department of State is proud to partner with MAG and Facebook to deliver targeted risk education to Iraqis living in areas most heavily impacted by improvised explosive devices, landmines, and other explosive hazards left by ISIS.

“By leveraging an existing communications platform already used by the majority of Iraqis, this Department of State-facilitated initiative uses an innovative approach to deliver life-saving information to those Iraqis most likely to encounter dangerous explosive hazards.

MAG is a global landmine clearance charity that’s helped over 18 million people in 68 countries rebuild their lives and livelihoods after war.

We have worked in Iraq since 1992 to make land safe for populations affected by decades of conflict.

(Source: MAG)

By John Lee.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Iraq would like to highlight the role of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) as a key facilitator of stabilization and humanitarian efforts through the support of explosive hazard management and risk education activities in the retaken areas of Iraq.

More than two years after the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) retook areas previously under Da’esh control, the presence of explosive hazards continues to act as one of the primary inhibitors for the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) back to their homes. The scale, density, and complexity of explosive hazards is unprecedented, making Iraq one of the most contaminated countries in the world.

Support from the United Kingdom through DFID has a significant impact on clearance efforts in the country, allowing for the continuation and expansion of UNMAS activities in the retaken areas of Iraq. In collaboration with its implementing partners and the Government of Iraq, UNMAS has coordinated a humanitarian response framework that tackles explosive hazard contamination through three different strategies: direct explosive hazard management through clearance measures, enhancement of government capacity through advanced trainings, and provision of risk education to vulnerable and displaced communities.

Risk education is a key activity supported by the United Kingdom since inception. Life-saving messages are delivered to affected communities via sessions mostly organized in IDP camps, schools and community centers. To extend the reach of risk education messages, creative tools such as the screening of TV clips, the printing of life-saving messages on taxis, date packages, water bottles and gloves as well as the use of virtual reality goggles have also recently been developed and used. These initiatives are essential to avoid accidents caused by explosive hazards.

British Chargé d’Affaires in Baghdad John Tucknott said:

The UK is the largest contributor to the Voluntary Trust Fund for Mine Action in Iraq. UK aid supports UNMAS in clearing explosive hazards, educating vulnerable communities on how to stay safe and helping to train Iraq’s National Demining Authority.

“It also supports search and clearance teams clearing important infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and roads, enabling Iraqis to safely return to their homes. We are particularly pleased that in Sinjar these teams are gender-balanced and include members belonging to different religions and ethnicities.

Pehr Lodhammar, Senior Programme Manager of UNMAS in Iraq:

Explosive hazards continue to have an adverse effect on afflicted communities in Iraq. Our primary mandate is to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of IDPs to their homes. We cannot do that when an estimated 70 per cent of explosive hazards still lie underneath the rubble.

“Risk education and the clearance of explosive hazards always come together. To avoid accidents, it is crucial to teach affected communities which behaviours to adopt when encountering explosive hazards.

(Source: United Nations)

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has welcomed an additional contribution of USD 1,625,000 from the Government of Japan to further mitigate the threat posed by explosive hazards in support of the provision, facilitation and enablement of humanitarian and stabilization support.

Japan has recently decided a new assistance package for Iraq amounting to USD 63 million, which includes this project as a contribution to explosive hazard management,” said His Excellency Mr. Naofumi Hashimoto (pictured), Ambassador of Japan to the Federal Republic of Iraq.

He reiterated Japan’s continued support for Iraq’s reconstruction efforts, notably through humanitarian and stabilization assistance to help displaced people return to their communities.

UNMAS, working in tandem with its implementing partners, continues to maintain a weighted presence in Iraq, especially in the areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

This contribution from the Government of Japan will support UNMAS explosive hazard management activities in Iraq. UNMAS implements a strategic, comprehensive response to mitigate the risks posed by explosive hazards through three primary areas: explosive hazard management, capacity enhancement, and risk education.

This range of activities allows for a dynamic and adaptable approach covering clearance, enhancement of existing government resources, and engagement with communities to ensure a unified response to explosive hazards.

This contribution is complemented with a risk education event for internally displaced people (IDPs) sponsored by Japan, entitled “Safe Run”. Through interactive activities and a two-kilometre run for children of families residing in the camp, the event highlighted correct behaviors to adopt when encountering explosive hazards.

Mr. Katsumi Moriyasu, Consul of Japan in Erbil, talked to children in his speech at the event:

“It is my sincere hope that you keep yourselves fully cautious and protect yourselves, based upon the lessons you have learned today. You are assured that your parents, authorities, UNMAS, local and international communities continue to work closely toward a world without mines so that you, your sisters and brothers can attend school and play at outside fields, being free from getting victimized.”

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager in Iraq, said:

“Significant explosive contamination remains uncleared throughout the liberated areas and pose a significant threat to all members of the affected communities, with children being especially vulnerable. Whether through direct explosive hazard management, or risk education initiatives such as this ‘Safe Run’, Japan’s generous contribution will go a long way in supporting humanitarian and stabilization efforts in the country.”

The Government of Japan is an essential contributor to UNMAS explosive hazards management activities in Iraq and has donated over USD 14.4 million since 2016.

(Source: UN)

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Iraq welcomes an additional contribution of DKK 73 million (over USD 11 million) from the Government of Denmark to mitigate the threat posed by explosive hazards and enable stabilization efforts in liberated areas of Iraq.

The scale, scope, and complexity of explosive hazard contamination in liberated areas is substantial, and far exceeds the existing national resources to clear them.

This multi-year contribution (2019 to 2021) from the Government of Denmark is critical to the continuation of operations and brings the total Danish support for UNMAS work in Iraq to DKK 165,500,000 (approximately USD 26 million).

Through strategic partnerships and engagement of both internal and external stakeholders, and in support of the Government of Iraq and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNMAS has so far cleared over 1,400 critical infrastructure sites. These include bridges, water treatment and power plants, hospitals and schools. All littered with explosive hazards following the defeat of ISIL.

With this contribution from Denmark, UNMAS will be able to better support the safe, orderly, voluntary and dignified return of displaced communities through explosive hazard management, risk education, and capacity enhancement initiatives in support of the Iraqi government.

Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Anders Samuelsen (pictured) underlined the importance of explosive threat mitigation for the return of IDPs:

“We are painfully aware that the return of internally displaced persons to some kind of normal life is not possible as long as explosive hazards threaten their life and safety. That is why UNMAS’ work remains so critical.”

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, Senior Programme Manager of UNMAS in Iraq, said:

Explosive hazards are found everywhere: in infrastructure, schools, hospitals, homes and under bridges. They are mixed with the rubble, and are found in rural and urban areas, sometimes visible, but often hidden, waiting for potential victims. They must all be cleared before communities are safe.

“UNMAS has been in Iraq for just over three years, and we still have a long way to go. We are very grateful for this generous contribution from Denmark that will allow us to continue our work in explosive hazard management and simultaneously save lives in the process.

(Source: UN)

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Iraq has welcomed an additional contribution of AUD 2 million (approximately USD 1.5 million) from the Government of Australia to further enable stabilization and humanitarian efforts through explosive hazards management in liberated areas of Iraq.

This brings the current three-year contribution from Australia to a total of AUD 13 million (approximately USD 9 million).

The survey and clearance of explosive hazards are a crucial precursor to the commencement of humanitarian and stabilization initiatives, and the demand for assistance still exceeds the resources available. UNMAS in Iraq is working closely with the United Nations system and the Government of Iraq to enable humanitarian and stabilization efforts.

This contribution from the Government of Australia will further support UNMAS explosive hazards management activities to create safe conditions for the sustainable return of displaced people. It will also improve coordination, engagement and capacity enhancement of relevant government authorities, threat impact assessments as well as clearance and risk education initiatives. This will reduce the risk of explosive hazards in direct support of humanitarian and stabilization planning and delivery, while at the same time increase national capacities to manage the overall threat of newly identified explosive hazards in these areas.

The contribution comes in concert with a recent field visit organized for representatives of the Government of Australia to Fallujah in Anbar Governorate. During the visit, the delegation received a comprehensive briefing on UNMAS clearance activities inside the city’s most damaged areas, with its scale of destruction and contamination continuing to be prime inhibitors for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes.

Australia’s Ambassador to Iraq, Dr Joanne Loundes (pictured), said:

“Although much progress has already been made, the huge scale of explosive hazards contamination in Iraq means there is still much to be done. We are increasing Australia’s contribution to UNMAS because we are committed to helping Iraq address these challenges and helping displaced families return to their homes.”

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, Senior Programme Manager for UNMAS in Iraq, said:

“Through its continuous support and close collaboration with UNMAS, the Government of Australia is helping to reduce the threat posed by explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices, thereby enhancing community safety and facilitating the return of displaced people to their homes.”

The Government of Australia is an essential contributor to UNMAS explosive hazards management activities in Iraq. This latest contribution brings to AUD 18 million (approximately USD 13 million) the total amount of funds donated since 2016.

(Source: UN)

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) welcomes the contribution of SEK 75 million (approximately USD 8.3 million) from the Government of Sweden on mitigating the threat from explosive hazards in support of enhanced provision, facilitation and enablement of humanitarian and stabilization support.

Approximately 1.8 million people are estimated to be internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq, equating to 18 percent of the Iraqis who live in conflict-affected areas, and more than 5 percent of the overall population. According to an assessment carried out in 2018, on average and across affected areas, 22% of IDPs in camps cite explosive hazards as a main reason for not intending to return to their areas of origin, rising up to 52% in some governorates.

In addition, 12% of out-of-camp IDPs cite the same. As for those who do choose to return, do so in potentially unsafe environments contaminated by explosive hazards (Multi-Cluster Needs Assessment VI led by the Assessment Working Group and facilitated by REACH, September 2018).

UNMAS Iraq, working in tandem with its implementing partners, continues to maintain a weighted presence in Iraq, especially in the areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Through strategic partnerships and engagement of both internal and external stakeholders, and in support of the Government of Iraq and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNMAS has so far cleared over 1,100 sites of critical infrastructure. These include bridges, water plants, power plants, hospitals, schools, etc. that were once the strongholds of ISIL and which were littered with explosive hazards after their defeat.

With this contribution from Sweden, UNMAS will be able to better support communities with explosive hazard management, risk education, and capacity enhancement initiatives in support of the Iraqi government.

The contribution comes in concert with a recent field visit organized for representatives of the Government of Sweden, including the Swedish Ambassador to Iraq Mr. Pontus Melander, to Sinjar and Kocho in the Sinjar District of the Ninewa governorate. During the visit, the delegation gained a first-hand insight on UNMAS planned clearance activities inside the district’s most damaged area, with its scale of destruction and contamination continuing to be prime inhibitors for the safe, dignified and voluntary return of IDPs to their homes.

His Excellency Mr. Pontus Melander said:

“As we have seen firsthand, it is painfully clear how explosive hazards prevent humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and the safe return of internally displaced persons. Sweden proudly supports UNMAS’ critical work, as well as the efforts of the Government of Iraq, with explosive hazards management and demining. These efforts are crucial for both the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection of civilians, as well as being a precondition for safe reconstruction and returns.”

Pehr Lodhammar, Senior Programme Manager of UNMAS in Iraq, added:

The severity of explosive hazard contamination in ISIL-affected areas in Iraq cannot be understated. The methods and explosive devices used by ISIL are unlike any we have seen previously. They planted, sometimes very complex improvised explosive devices, across all areas previously under their control. These devices are constituting a threat to returning populations and humanitarian actors, still, and long after ISIL were defeated.

“This new funding from Sweden will go a long way in ensuring that UNMAS can provide the support needed to ensure the safe return of IDPs to their communities.

(Source: UN)

Over seven million square meters in areas liberated from ISIS cleared of explosives

The Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA) has cleared 7,414,199 square meters in areas liberated from ISIS of explosive devices and difused 43,057 IEDs and UXO pieces, said Siraj Barzani, Head of IKMAA, in an interview with the Kurdistan Regional Government website.

From the 2014 ISIS onslaught until October 2017, three IKMAA units in Duhok, Erbil, and Germiyan, in cooperation with Peshmerga forces, started their plan to clear contaminated areas and raise public awareness of explosive devices.

Mr. Barzani said that poisonous chlorine gas bottles stockpiled by ISIS were also deactivated by an IKMMA team with the assistance and supervision of a special chemical weapons team from the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs and Ministry of Interior.

According to Mr. Barzani:

“IKMMA teams in liberated areas faced a variety of impediments, including fragile security, logistical issues, unsatisfactory information about areas and risks, pressure to hastily clear contaminated areas.”

With financial assistance from foreign governments, international NGOs – MAG, FSD, Handicap International, NPA, DDG, Sterling – participated in these clearing operations.

According to IKMMA, in 1991, 776 square kilometers of the Kurdistan Region were contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance, UXO, laid by former Iraqi regime forces, which has since decreased to 270 square kilometers, a reduction of 65 percent.

According to Mr. Barzani:

“From 1991 until October 2018, there have been 13,233 victims of landmines and other explosive devices. Today, there are fewer victims due to clearance operations and increased public awareness.’’

(Source: KRG)

The Federal Republic of Germany supports joint Ministry of Interior and UNMAS training to respond to explosive hazards

This week marked the beginning of a 75-day training course in Anbar jointly organized by the Ministry of Interior and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

This course will be the first of its kind, with Iraqi Police instructors and UNMAS instructors working closely side-by-side to train local police in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and improvised explosive devices disposal (IEDD).

Explosive hazards continue to pose a significant risk for people returning to their homes, as well as for the security services providing the initial response to the explosive threat. Displaced people who are returning to former battle areas are likely to encounter explosive hazards.

One of the options available to them is to contact local police who, in turn, will be the first responders. The presence of trained local police contributes to a safer environment and mitigates the risks of casualties amongst returnees.

“Explosive hazard clearance remains of the utmost importance in order to allow displaced people to return to their homes. Such clearances are a vital part of our stabilisation efforts” said Dr Cyrill Jean Nunn, Ambassador of Germany to Iraq. “Therefore Germany remains committed to supporting UNMAS in this important task.”

“Capacity enhancement support to enable local police response to explosive hazards is critical for the re-establishment of rule of law in liberated areas” said. Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager. “Germany is a crucial partner for supporting explosive hazard management training and providing advice to the Government of Iraq.”

The generous contribution of EUR 4.5 million from the Federal Republic of Germany allows UNMAS to provide training and advice to National Mine Action Authorities and the Ministry of Interior to mitigate the threat from explosive hazards. This also includes a dedicated Gender Advisor who is working with relevant stakeholders (implementing partners and authorities) to mainstream gender into Mine Action processes.

UNMAS continues to train local police to provide life-saving first response in affected communities. Since January 2018, more than 370 police officers have been trained as first responders and 30 police officers are now able to train other police officers in Anbar and Kirkuk Governorates.

The Federal Republic of Germany remains the largest contributor to UNMAS in Iraq, providing a total of EUR 44.2 million since 2016.

(Source: UN)