A Peshmerga removes a mine near Khazir, a town ISIS once controlled, in the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Rudaw | Mohammed Shwani
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Nearly half of the funding the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is requesting this year worldwide for mine clearance is needed in Iraq.
Nearly $265 million is needed for various UNMAS-backed projects in Iraq in 2019, the 22nd International Meeting of Mine Action National Directors and United Nations Advisers announced on Thursday.
Afghanistan is second at $95 million, while Syria is third at $50 million.
"Being a survivor is not a choice. The girls and boys, men and women, who have lost a limb, suffered traumatic psychological damage, their needs must be addressed. Assistance to victims is a crucial pillar of mine action that has been underscored by Member States time and time again yet remains critically underfunded," said Agnes Marcaillou, the director of UNMAS.
The projects in Iraq include mine clearance, cross-cutting, and risk education.
Several demining organizations are active in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, including the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA), DanChurchAid (DCA), the Danish Demining Group, Humanity and Inclusion, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Fondation Suisse de Deminage (FSD), and UNMAS itself.
Only about $65 million of the projects have been funded.
"The new UN Mine Action Strategy 2019-2023 reflects a consensus that we, all, must do more ... We must all step up,” said Marcaillou.
Because of cycles of conflict including with the Iran-Iraq war, Anfal, the Kurdish Civil War, the US invasion, insurgency and ISIS war, Iraq is the most heavily mined
country in the world according to UNICEF with 59 mines per square-mile or 23 per square-kilometer.
Additionally, locals have been known to clear the mines themselves which present a particular danger during the rainy season in the mountains.
The Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga have limited means
to detect, destroy, and dismantle the explosive dangers due in part to the Iraqi federal government's refusal to fund the regional government's forces which are constitutionally enshrined.