The presence of explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices in areas liberated from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), will continue to impede security and stability efforts as well as development initiatives until these are cleared and rendered safe.
A delegation from DFID was recently hosted by UNMAS in Mosul and had the opportunity to speak with Iraqi and international implementing partners and hear their stories about how and why they work to clear of explosive hazards. Ms. Stefanie Nijssen, Policy & Programme Manager for Demining and Arms Control, and Ms. Susan Erb, Humanitarian Advisor, together with Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Iraq Senior Programme Manager, saw firsthand that within a few days a water treatment plant can be made free from explosive hazards for engineers to commence rehabilitation work – but no matter how quickly this can be done, the emphasis is on making the site safe.
“Safety is the most important”, G4S Team Leader Faisal Abdul Rida Obaid Farham Al-Zaid explained to the visiting delegation. “We can fix a park or building after an explosion, but we cannot fix a lost limb or lost human soul”. DFID also met with a number of national and international mine action organizations, as well as local authorities.
UNMAS work in Iraq focuses on clearance of explosive hazards in areas previously under ISIL occupation, risk education with life-saving messages in advance of internally displaced persons (IDP) return and capacity enhancement of local and national authorities to manage, regulate and coordinate an effective response to new threats.
This is done in close coordination with agencies engaged in the rehabilitation of infrastructure and humanitarian programmes, which collectively define the way forward for development.
Deputy British Ambassador to Iraq, John Tucknott, said: “Until mines are cleared and areas made safe, normal life cannot return. Mine clearance is an essential step in regenerating war damaged areas. The UK is proud to be supporting UNMAS in delivering this essential work”.
“Explosive hazard management is the first step and of crucial importance to allow displaced people to safely return to their homes,” said Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager in Iraq. “The continued and generous support provided by the Government of the United Kingdom is crucial to create a safe environment for people to live in and to strengthen the capacity of the Government of Iraq in mitigating the threat posed by explosive hazards”.
The United Kingdom is one of the largest contributing member states to UNMAS in Iraq.