Extensive conflict in Iraq involving the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or “Da’esh”, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Kurdish forces (Peshmerga), and other armed actors has resulted in the displacement of approximately 3.1 million people since 2014 and a significant increase in contamination from explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in areas retaken from ISIL occupation.
The scale and complexity of the explosive hazard problem is substantial, unprecedented and exceeds existing and available response capacities. Home-made unmanned aerial vehicles, booby-trapped vehicles as well as IED “factories” have been reported. In areas close to Mosul, the number of daily explosive hazard incidents has sharply increased to 9 items per day in January 2017. This represents a 74% increase compared with the last quarter of 2016.
The Government of Iraq, the UN and other national and international stakeholders have prioritized the stabilization of retaken areas, the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the provision of humanitarian assistance. The presence of explosive hazards in retaken areas is impeding emergency response efforts and preventing civilians from safely seeking assistance.
UNMAS was established in Iraq in 2015. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2299 (2016) for Iraq emphasizes the threat of hazardous explosive devices and encourages Member States to continue their support to the Government of Iraq and its partners in addressing the need to provide risk education and appropriate threat assessments, and to conduct clearance.
As the global mine action coordinator UNMAS leads the overall mine action sector in Iraq to increase effectiveness and efficiency in providing life-saving risk education messages to vulnerable IDPs and communities, conducting survey and clearance operations, and enhancing the capacity of national actors including the national/regional mine action authorities to manage and respond to explosive threats.
UNMAS supports a nationally-led and nationally-implemented response. The specific geographic location of activities are determined by the national/regional authorities, in line with Government stabilization and humanitarian priorities and in coordination with dedicated working groups coordinating the emergency response.
At the request of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq and the Iraqi Government, the UNDP Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) and the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq have prioritized mine action as a critical first line emergency response and an essential precursor to immediate action.
The overall objective of the UNMAS programme in Iraq is to assist stabilization and humanitarian efforts supporting the return of displaced people to areas previously under ISIL occupation, specifically to:
UNMAS provides strategic and technical support and guidance to the Government of Iraq through the national operations centre, the Iraqi Directorate of Mine Action (DMA) and the Iraqi Kurdish Mine Action Agency (IKMAA), supporting emergency operations and capacity-building activities. UNMAS is also the mine action sub-cluster coordinator under the Protection Cluster, supporting emergency humanitarian mine action activities across Iraq.
As the conflict continues and the crisis deepens, there is an increased need to expanding civilian emergency response operations into newly retaken areas to respond to the remnant explosive hazard threat. Intensive threat impact assessment has highlighted both urban and rural settings to be heavily contaminated with explosive hazards, including IEDs. Contamination in residential areas remains a concern with returning civilians reportedly still attempting to use ‘self-help’ measures to deal with explosive hazards in their homes. The challenge in identifying available and qualified international and national capacities to assist with the comprehensive multi-partner effort also remains.
Of the $112 million resources required for 2017 UNMAS has so far secured US $16.3 million from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom to implement its programme of activities for 2017.
Updated: January 2017