Explosive remnants collected by United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) teams in Iraq. Photo: UNMAS video / social media
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The British government announced on Saturday the allocation of a further £5 million to UNMAS, the UN mine action agency, to help clear explosives from schools, hospitals, and roads in Iraq left over from the war with ISIS.
The Department for International Development (DFID) hailed the contribution, saying the UK's past donations had helped more than a million displaced people return to their homes in 2018.
Around 16,500 explosives, 800 suicide belts, and 2,000 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were cleared in Iraq last year, DFID said.
In total, the UK has contributed £24.9 million to demining projects in Iraq since 2015.
“Daesh’s sickening use of explosive traps continue to threaten children in their schools, mothers in hospitals, and thousands of innocent people trying to return to a normal life,” Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development secretary, said in a statement.
“Thanks to this UK aid funded work, people can return to work, children can go back to school and lives are slowly being rebuilt,” she added.
The new round of funding will focus on projects in Shingal with the aim of allowing displaced Yezidis to return to their homeland. Rehabilitation of displaced families and reconstruction work can only begin once explosives have been cleared.
Six explosive clearance teams will be deployed across the region.
“The UK is a world leader in demining. I believe the UK public supports this work and can very clearly see its impact, in changing and saving lives,” Mordaunt said.
According to DFID, UK funded projects have cleared 3,500 explosive hazards from a Mosul hospital used as a base by ISIS. They also cleared a school in West Mosul which had been used as a bomb factory. Some 1,500 explosives, including 15 suicide belts, were found there and secured.
In Fallujah a UK-sponsored team cleared a school rigged with 13 IEDs and a bridge laced with 44 IEDs and 400 kilograms of explosives, DFID said.
UK funding has also sponsored education and public safety programs.
Mosul was liberated from ISIS control in summer 2017 following a ferocious land and air campaign, which left much of the city and its infrastructure in ruins. ISIS militants left whole neighborhoods rigged with explosives, making it impossible for families to return to their homes.
Long after the city’s liberation, mine clearance operations are still ongoing.
Although 3.9 million people have returned to their homes since the defeat of ISIS, some 1.9 million remain displaced, according to UN figures. Families still residing in IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region say a lack of security and services prevent them from returning.