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 United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) welcomes a contribution of NZD 250,000 (USD 160,000) from the Government of New Zealand and is grateful for the deployment of an in-kind Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Threat Mitigation Advisor to support explosive hazard management activities in Iraq.

Extensive conflict in Iraq involving the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Forces (Peshmerga) and other armed actors has resulted in the displacement of more than 5.8 million people between 2014 and 2017, amongst which 1.9 million are still displaced today and a significant increase in contamination from explosive remnants of war and IEDs in areas liberated from ISIL occupation.

The scale and complexity of the explosive hazard problem is substantial, unprecedented and exceeds existing and available response capacities. In Iraq, UNMAS is leading and coordinating a blended response to assist stabilization and humanitarian efforts supporting the return of displaced people to areas previously under ISIL occupation.

Given this challenging environment, the role of the IED Threat Mitigation Advisor is crucial to support UNMAS activities in Iraq and mitigate the threat posed by explosive hazards. By analyzing information and technical data relating to the IED threat within the region, continually assessing the operational situation in Iraq for areas of improvement in efficiency, effectiveness and safety and conducting IED awareness briefings, the Advisor plays a key role in prioritizing, coordinating and implementing explosive hazard management projects. The financial contribution will also address gaps identified to support the work of the IED Threat Mitigation Advisor.

The Ambassador of New Zealand to Iraq, Mr. Bradley Sawden, participated in a field visit to Mosul last week. This was an opportunity to introduce the IED Threat Mitigation Advisor and to better understand his role and responsibilities in support of explosive hazard management with UNMAS in Iraq.

The Ambassador visited a few sites in West Mosul including Danedan 2 Water Treatment Plant, Al Shuhudaa Park and Al Maedan district, where clearance operations are ongoing or have just been completed. An extensive briefing about the task and the outcome of the clearance was delivered in each location.

(Source: UN)

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)

By John Lee.

Two UK-based companies have won tenders to provide Explosive Hazard Management (EHM) and Risk Education (RE) to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Iraq.

The contract with G4S Risk Management Limited is valued at $8,420,831 while the contract with The HALO Trust is valued at $3,996,181.

(Source: UNGM)

The Government of France supports Explosive Hazards Management to enable Humanitarian and Stabilization Efforts in Liberated Areas

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has welcomed a first contribution of EUR 500,000 (USD 590,000) from the Government of France dedicated to explosive hazard management in support of humanitarian and stabilization efforts.

The presence of explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in areas liberated from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), will continue to impede security and stability efforts until they are cleared and rendered safe.

Approximately 1.9 million civilians are still displaced in Iraq due to the recent conflict and unsafe conditions to allow their return. It is estimated that 21% of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are not planning to return to their area of origin because of the presence of explosive hazards and IEDs (REACH/CCCM Cluster ‘Intentions Survey’, January 2018).

The Government of Iraq maintains explosive hazard management capacities within a number of government entities and established mine action authorities, though the demand for assistance far exceeds the resources available.

With this first contribution from France, UNMAS will increase capacity to conduct survey and clearance of liberated areas suspected to be affected by explosive hazards in Anbar, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, and Diyala Governorates.

UNMAS Iraq will more specifically coordinate the deployment of appropriate clearance capacity in priority locations depending on assessments in direct support of the Government of Iraq, UN plans and humanitarian assistance efforts as well as in coordination with relevant UN agencies.

In collaboration with the Directorate of Mine Action (DMA), risk education will be also provided to those living in and returning to liberated areas known to be contaminated by explosive hazards. Finally, this donation will help UNMAS to further enhance Governmental authorities’ ability to better manage, regulate and coordinate response to the current contamination through training and advisory support.

The French Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Bruno Aubert (pictured) said:

“This contribution testifies not only to the concrete commitment of France alongside Iraqis but also to a desire for effective collaboration with all our partners to develop concrete projects for the reconstruction of Iraq”.

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager, stated:

“This first contribution from the Government of France will make a significant difference. It will not only support UNMAS efforts to address the threat posed by explosive hazards, but also contribute to the safe and dignified return of displaced communities.”

(Source: UN)

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has welcomed a contribution of AUD 11 million (USD 8.6 million) from the Government of Australia dedicated to explosive hazard management in support of humanitarian and stabilization efforts.

Approximately 2.1 million civilians are still displaced due to the recent conflict and unsafe conditions to allow their return. A nation-wide intentions survey was carried out by REACH in partnership with the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster in internally displaced person (IDP) camps between 12 December 2017 and 14 January 2018 highlighted that 52% of people interviewed were not planning to return home.

Of the 52% that will not return, 21% stated this was due to the possible presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance. In effect, 1 in 10 IDPs in the camps surveyed who are not leaving the camp are not returning home because of the fear of explosive hazard contamination in or nearby their homes.

The Government of Iraq maintains explosive hazard management capacities within a number of government entities and established mine action authorities, though the demand for assistance far exceeds the resources available.

With the three-year contribution from Australia, UNMAS will conduct survey and clearance of liberated areas suspected to be affected by explosive hazards. This is in direct support of the Government priorities as outlined in the Directorate for Mine Action (DMA) “National Strategic and Executive Plan for Mine Action for 2017-2021” which highlights DMA’s aim to be able to survey, mark and render safe 50% of known explosive hazard contamination by 2021.

Simultaneously, in collaboration with DMA, risk education will be provided to those living in and returning to liberated areas, directly mitigating the threat posed by explosive hazards and IEDs. The efforts will specifically target affected communities known or suspected to have an explosive hazard or IED threat.

The Australian Ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Joanne Loundes (pictured) said:

“Australia is proud to partner with UNMAS and provide AUD11 million over three years towards critical demining activities in Iraq. Even though Iraqi territory has been liberated from ISIL, explosives remain hidden in homes, schools, hospitals and roads in former ISIL controlled areas. Unless these areas are cleared, people cannot return home, stabilisation and reconstruction efforts will stall and the human toll from this devastating conflict will continue.”

Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager, added:

“Through this generous contribution, the Government of Australia will further enable UNMAS to respond to explosive hazards through survey and clearance and in turn enable safe and dignified returns.”

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Two companies have won tenders to supply EOD/IEDD search and clearance teams to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Iraq.

The contract with UK-based is valued at $6,374,302, while the contract with is valued at $3,782,425.

(Source: UNGM)

(Picture: Unexploded ordinance (UXO) mortar in Baghdad, by Angela N Perryman/Shutterstock)

Japan’s USD 4.5 million contribution for emergency response extends support for explosive hazard clearance in Iraq

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) welcomes the contribution of USD 4.5 million from the Government of Japan to support the UNMAS Iraq emergency response related to on-going humanitarian and stabilization efforts in liberated areas contaminated with explosive hazards.

Close to 2.3 million people are still displaced. Schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, electrical power stations and water treatment plants are still contaminated by explosive hazards in liberated areas.

With support from the Government of Japan, UNMAS Iraq is able to further expand explosive hazard clearance operations to remove threats from liberated areas assisting stabilization efforts and humanitarian activities supporting the safe, dignified and voluntary return of displaced people in Iraq.

Removing explosive hazards is the first step to commence rehabilitation and reconstruction activities with the Government of Iraq and UN partners, bringing the people of Iraq back to normal life and restoring economy.

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager expressed:

“UNMAS Iraq appreciates the Government of Japan’s continuous support to the programme since 2016 reaffirming their financial commitment to explosive hazard mitigation operations.” He added that “Japan’s continuous support sustains our vital operations and allows us to expand explosive hazard activities in Iraq.”

Mr. Fumio Iwai, Ambassador of Japan to Iraq said:

“It is the fourth year in a row since Japan started the assistance for vulnerable Iraqi and Syrian people affected by ISIL through its Supplementary Budget. This assistance shows Japan’s strong and faithful commitment to addressing the basic needs in the camps and the areas of return in Iraq”.

He added:

“The assistance to UNMAS comes as part of the new package of humanitarian and stabilization efforts to Iraq amounting to approximately USD 100 million. Japan is determined to serve displaced and returning people, refugees and host communities in Iraq, while supporting Iraq’s efforts for its development”.

In 2019, Japan and Iraq will celebrate 80 years of diplomatic relations and friendship.

Japan’s total contributions to UNMAS Iraq for the past three years now total USD 12.8 million. Since the inception of the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action (UNVTF) in 1994, Japan has contributed more than USD 190.5 million to support mine action efforts worldwide.

(Source: UNAMI)