Iraq is one of the countries in the world most severely affected by landmines, cluster munitions remnants (CMR) and other explosive remnants of war (ERW).
According to Mine Action Review 2021, Iraq is the world’s most contaminated country by extent of mined area and the fourth most contaminated country in terms of cluster munition contamination. The Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s, the Gulf War in 1991, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and internal conflicts have littered Iraq with millions of items of explosive ordnance, including unexploded cluster munitions and landmines. The majority of the cluster munition contamination is found in the southern region of Iraq, while the conventional landmines are found mostly along the border with Iran. The already extensive contamination was made significantly worse by the conflict with ISIS from 2014 to 2017, as ISIS left massive amounts of improvised landmines and other improvised explosive devices in northern and central Iraq.
Decades of warfare and strife have left Iraq with dire humanitarian needs threatening to further destabilize the country. Continuous conflict and economic stagnation have impacted nearly every aspect of the Iraqi society. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Humanitarian Needs Overview for Iraq 2021, 2.5 million Iraqis are in need of humanitarian aid.
The Norwegian People's Aid in Iraq
NPA is one of the longest standing humanitarian mine action operators inside Iraq with a presence since 1995. Due to extensive cluster munition contamination in southern Iraq, NPA has been supporting Iraq to meet its article 4 obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) by conducting survey and clearance of cluster munitions (since 2013) and providing advisory support to the Regional Mine Action Centre South (since 2010). In response to the humanitarian crisis in the wake of ISIS’ occupation of large parts of Iraq, NPA started up mine action activities in Ninewa Governorate in 2017. And from 2018 NPA began undertaking survey, clearance and explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) in Anbar Governorate, thus filling a large gap in humanitarian assistance within mine action in Iraq,.
NPA Iraq has divided its Mine Action and Disarmament (MAD) programme into three operational areas, implementing survey, clearance, EORE, and quality control (QC) activities in: southern Iraq, based out in Basra (operations in Basra and Muthanna governorates); northern Iraq, based out in Mosul (operations in Ninewa Governorate); and central Iraq, based out in Ramadi, Haditha and Ana (operations in Anbar Governorate). The programme’s overall management and support services are located at NPA’s country office in Baghdad. Having a country office in Baghdad allows for closer coordination with the Iraqi Directorate of Mine Action (DMA), donors and other relevant stakeholders in supporting the development of the framework conditions for mine action in Iraq.
In 2021, the Iraq programme released almost 20 million m2 land, benefitting 11,000 persons directly and over 61,000 indirectly. Over 22,000 persons received person-to-person Explosive Ordnance Risk Education, and more than 55,000 received risk education messages through media.
NPA's mine action operations in Iraq are made possible through the support of the United States Department of State (US DoS-PM/WRA) with two grants for operations in Anbar Governorate and one grant for operations in southern Iraq, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA), German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO), Canadian DFATD, and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). NPA Iraq currently has non-technical survey teams, manual multi-task teams, mechanical teams, mine detection dog teams, explosive ordnance risk education teams, and external QC teams.
- NPA has released more than 63 million m² of land in Iraq through technical survey and clearance.
- Through NPA’s operations in Iraq, 19,672 cluster munitions, 11,820 improvised landmines and IEDs, and 2,893 items of unexploded ordnance/abandoned explosive ordnance have been located, safely removed and destroyed.
- More than 341 million m² hazardous area identified through non-technical survey.
- More than 175,000 people have received explosive ordnance risk education, including over 109,000 children and 66,000 adults.