Communities across Iraq face danger from an estimated 10 to 15 million landmines and pieces of UXO. On top of these existing hazards, Iraqis now have to contend with the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) created by ISIL. Homes have been rigged with explosives by ISIL and schools and playgrounds are rife with explosive devices. Public utilities cannot be accessed because of ISIL-placed IEDs and hospital corridors are littered with ISIL devices that are designed to kill and maim anyone who encounters them. In Ramadi alone, the United Nations (UN) estimates ISIL left behind thousands of IEDs. These new challenges make the United States and international community’s work to support the people of Iraq more essential than ever.
Since 2003, the United States has invested more than $290 million, under the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction program, toward the clearance and safe disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess conventional weapons and munitions in Iraq. In 2015 alone, we worked in partnership with Iraq to destroy more than 61,979 pieces of UXO and at-risk munitions, clear more than 65 million square meters of land, and provide risk education to more than 38,000 Iraqi men, women and children.
This year, after Iraqi forces cleared the city of Ramadi, we announced an additional $5 million in assistance to clear explosive hazards through a contract with Janus Global Operations, one of the world’s leading demining companies. Working in partnership with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi, Anbar Governor al-Rawi, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and the United Nations Development Program’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS), Janus began efforts to survey several Ramadi neighborhoods as well as the city’s main water station in Tamim in order to estimate the level of UXO, abandoned explosive ordnance, and IED contamination.
U.S. support has saved countless lives and revitalized economic and agricultural development throughout Iraq. But the needs in Iraq over the next two years will be staggering. The reports from Anbar and Ninewa in recent days on the grave humanitarian situation for those displaced by ISIL are just the most recent reminders of the human toll of this conflict on vulnerable civilians. Over the coming months, humanitarian costs could climb to more than $1 billion a year, particularly as Iraqi forces prepare operations to liberate Mosul, the country’s second largest city.
Through its cooperation with the Iraqi government and the Global Coalition, the UN established the Fund for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) in Iraq, which supports the implementation of rapid stabilization projects, including clearance of explosive hazards. FFIS has been successfully employed in Tikrit, Ramadi, Sinuni, Rabia, al-Dawr, Mkeishifa and Sa’adiyah. The 2016 Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan calls for $861 million to support frontline humanitarian programs, but it is only 38 percent funded to date. Due to the conflict and upheaval since January 2014, more than 3.3 million people are now displaced throughout Iraq and more than half are children. Across the country, over 10 million people are in urgent need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance. The UN has already closed dozens of life-saving programs and has warned that without immediate additional funding, it will be forced to close dozens more.
Member of an Iraqi clearance team with his partner “Barrett” a Mine Detection Dog provided by the U.S. supported NGO, Marshall Legacy Institute. [Photo Courtesy of MLI]
The July 20 Pledging Conference raised more than $2 billion to address the challenges faced by the Iraqi people and to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq. Funds raised at the conference will support a variety of FFIS humanitarian and stabilization projects, including clearance of explosive hazards. More than ten nations made over $80 million in new pledges for demining efforts in Iraq. This support will provide approximately three-quarters of the total amount of funding the United Nations estimates is required for one year of demining activities in Iraq. The United States made a substantial pledge during the conference, and we look to other nations to join us in this effort. Together, we can work together to ensure that all Iraqis can live free from the devastation caused by the explosive remnants of war.
Read the full blog post here.