One of the key pillars of UNMAS work in Iraq is to provide training and technical support to the Government of Iraq, which includes conducting multiple workshops, training courses, and practical sessions. However, this support is not exclusive to government stakeholders, but also Iraqi citizens, who are then better equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to undertake the jobs themselves. In 2019, UNMAS Iraq and its implementing partner have trained and employed two mixed Yazidi teams that cleared their villages of explosive hazards.
The presence of explosive hazards continues to plague the city of Mosul and its surrounding areas, which remain heavily contaminated with IEDs and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Risk education plays a pivotal role in mitigating the threat posed by explosive hazards in Iraq. In areas where UNMAS operates, teams of community liaison officers and risk education instructors are mobilized in the nearby vicinity to both collect key information on explosive hazard contamination and provide life-saving messages to communities.
Mixed Yazidi Teams in Sinjar (Bringing Women and Men at the Frontlines of Clearance Efforts in Iraq)
The work conducted by UNMAS mixed teams in Sinjar provide a blueprint for future mine action operations in Iraq. UNMAS is committed to mainstream gender across all its activities in country. Accounting for the needs of women, men, boys and girls into explosive hazard management (EHM) response is pivotal in ensuring the equality and dignity of vulnerable communities, and enabling the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) back to their areas of origin.
An inclusive and gender-balanced workforce increases the efficiency and effectiveness of mine action activities and benefits the community as a whole by ensuring a more coherent response to the different needs and priorities of women, girls, boys and men affected by contamination. A gender-balanced workforce also supports an agenda of equal rights, and programmes with more balanced staff composition report a better team atmosphere, improved satisfaction at work, and improved discipline.
Out of the 36 million people who currently live in Iraq, 11 million live in conflict-affected areas. Of those, approximately two million are estimated to still be Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It is crucial to understand the barriers posed to safe, sustainable, dignified and voluntary returns of all IDPs, so that appropriate support can be provided. The main reasons cited by IDPs for not going home include security concerns, lack of livelihoods or financial means, destroyed houses, and explosive hazards.
The scale, scope and complexity of the explosive contamination in Iraq’s liberated areas is significant, and exceeds existing and available national explosive hazard management capacities. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq is unprecedented, occurring in both urban and rural environments, cleverly concealed with the intention to maim and kill not restricted to combatants in a conflict. Security forces and civilians alike continue to suffer heavy losses as a result of the widespread use of these devices.
From the legacy of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) left as a result of the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War to the thousands of complex improvised explosive devices (IED) currently being found in areas liberated from Da’esh occupation, Iraq is considered as one of the most contaminated countries in the world. It is in this context that governmental entities, nationals and internationals, women and men, victims and professionals have gathered together for a common cause to create a safe environment and secure communities.
More than 5.8 million displaced people have fled their homes since the outbreak of conflict in Iraq in 2014. UNMAS Iraq was formally established in June 2015, at the request of the United Nations in Iraq, to lead the UN efforts in collaboration with the Government to mitigate explosive threats in the country, as well as to support capacity enhancement of national and regional mine action authorities.