UK contributes millions to explosive hazard clearance

The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) has contributed an additional GBP 4 million towards the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) programme in Iraq, allowing critical explosive hazard management activities to continue in areas newly liberated from Da’esh. 

The UK support will enable UNMAS to respond to humanitarian and stabilization priorities, critical to reconstruction and the facilitation of the safe return of the displaced people to their communities. The presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive hazards (EH) poses a direct threat to those responding to the needs of internally displaced persons from areas formerly under Da’esh control and those who have returned to retaken areas. 

IEDs and other EH, which have been used extensively in Iraq, present a major constraint for humanitarian, stabilization and reconstruction operations, and are affecting the ability of individuals to return to their homes. This additional contribution is vital for supporting continued UNMAS programming in current priority areas and newly retaken areas as they become accessible. 

The UK has supported the programme with over GBP 13.2 million since the launch of UNMAS Iraq in 2015. During a visit to Iraq this week, the Minister of State for International Development and Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Alistair Burt announced that the UK will provide GBP 4 million to protect people from explosive devices in liberated areas. 

This includes identifying and removing explosive hazards, supporting the Government of Iraq to help victims affected by mines and education programmes to raise public awareness about the threats. British Ambassador to Iraq Frank Baker said, “Da’esh is in retreat but their hidden explosives remain a threat in liberated areas like Mosul. Only after these dangerous devices have been removed can people return safely and begin to rebuild their lives. Today’s announcement demonstrates the UK’s continued commitment to this vital work.” 

Mr. Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager, noted, “The identification and removal of explosive hazards is the first step before humanitarian and stabilization interventions can take place in liberated areas. UNMAS has carried out assessments and clearance in priority infrastructure locations in Fallujah and Mosul, enabling safe return of civilians, establishment of camps and temporary facilities for returnees and rehabilitation of Government services, key infrastructure, schools and hospitals.” 

Established in Iraq in June 2015, UNMAS is currently working in newly liberated areas of Ninewah, Anbar and Salah al-Din governorates to provide emergency survey and clearance, enhance Iraqi government capacities and deliver life-saving risk education. UNMAS has completed over 800 assessments of critical areas, including direct support to Government of Iraq stabilization priorities, providing safe access for the rehabilitation of key infrastructure and other areas critical to the humanitarian response. 

Police and mine action personnel have been trained in all critical components of explosive hazard management to ensure the continued local capacity to respond to continued threats. To date, UNMAS and partners have delivered risk education to over 292,000 displaced and returned persons, providing life-saving messages to the most vulnerable from the conflict with Da’esh.
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