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Oil-for-Food Programme
Mine Action

Landmine Mapping and Clearance

Landmine surveys and mine clearance operations funded by the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme  paved the way for thousands of Iraqis in the three northern governorates to re-establish their farming and grazing lands and restore infrastructure vital to their economic progress.

Survey teams managed by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), found that one in every five people in the three northern Governorates of Iraq lived in communities with a risk of death or injury from unexploded mines and other ordnance. The surveyors identified 3,444 minefields and 1,096 mine affected villages during landmine mapping operations undertaken between 1997-2000. An extensive Landmine Impact Survey of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah Governorates from February 2001 to April 2002 also showed that 24 of the 25 districts in the northern governorates and some 740,000 people, were impacted by landmines.

This data was used to guide strategic demining operations and mine-risk education, with the result that:

  • landmine accidents declined;
  • community safety and confidence to pursue normal activity in cleared areas was restored;
  • crop and livestock production in cleared areas increased

The UNOPS survey found that a total of 339 square kilometers, or almost 1 per cent of the three northern governorates, contained landmines and almost 94 per cent of the identified areas contained antipersonnel mines as well as other unexploded ordnance (UXOs). The minefields were laid at various times through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. From 1998, UNOPS  worked with local deminers who were trained in mine clearance techniques, including the use of detectors, mechanical flailing machines and mine-sniffing dogs. Local demining NGOs were established in mid 2002 to ensure sustainable capacity.

Between 1998 and 2002, the UNOPS Mine Action Programme cleared some 76,500 mines from 9.1 million square metres of land, of which 3.95 milllion square metres were returned to the local population for productive use. Elsewhere, communities remained restricted in their ability to move safely from place to place, farm their land and tend livestock, and to collect fuelwood and drinking water for their homes in safety.

In addition to clearance operations, the programme worked with some 2,000 mine accident and war victims, providing minor and major surgery, prosthetics for lost limbs, and other rehabilitation services. Tens of thousands of women and children received Mine Risk education in ways to navigate their environment more safely and report, but not touch, unfamiliar objects. Mined areas that were identified, but uncleared, were marked with warning signs.

The UN Office of the Iraq Programme invested about $110 million in the mine action programme for northern Iraq between 1998 and early 2003.


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