In which parts of Iraq are people currently at risk from mines?

While UXO can be found all over Iraq, landmines tend to be concentrated in former conflict areas and along the borders, especially the one shared with Iran.

Over the past three decades, fighting has taken place in Iraq's three northern governorates of Dohuk, Arbil and Sulaymaniyah. As a result, the districts of Penjwin, Sharbazher and Qaladiza, along the Iran-Iraq border, are infested with landmines and UXO. According to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), these devices threaten an estimated 1,100 communities in northern Iraq and cause an average of 30 accidents per month.

The governorates of central and southern Iraq are affected to varying degrees by landmines and UXO. A survey carried out by the ICRC in 2001 showed that UXO posed a major threat for communities in southern Iraq. The UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) has stated that the Iraq-Kuwait border is contaminated by mines and UXO. In 2001, UNIKOM reported 38 mine or UXO accidents inside the Iraqi border, most of them involving farmers and herders who move to new areas with the changing seasons.

There is therefore a real threat for the population in the event of displacement towards neighbouring countries, especially if temporary camps are set up inside Iraq along borders that are potentially contaminated by landmines. If that happens, the ICRC will be particularly concerned about the safety of the population and every possible measure will have to be taken to protect civilians.

Should people cross the borders to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, UNHCR and the National Societies concerned (e.g. the Iranian Red Crescent) will deploy measur es to ensure their safety.

Is the Iraqi population sufficiently aware of the problem of mines? 

The bottom line is that, as long as people – particularly civilians – continue to be the victims of anti-personnel landmines, there is a need for greater awareness. This is why the ICRC runs extensive information programmes on the dangers posed by mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) or explosive remnants of war (ERW) in many parts of the world. In the Middle East, the ICRC is starting up an emergency programme on this question with five awareness delegates based in the countries surrounding Iraq.

The main aim is to reach the civilian population as quickly as possible with safety messages in order to avoid unnecessary accidents and suffering. A training curriculum (including a presentation kit with photos and drawings) has been developed and will be used during the information sessions given by instructors and volunteers.

In the event of large population movements, massive awareness training and information efforts will initially be carried out among the people most directly affected. Awareness sessions will be organized for different target groups, public information messages will be spread in various ways (via posters, printed material, radio spots) and as soon as possible, appropriate means will be developed to build awareness-raising capacity directly within the affected communities and thus ensure a long-term approach.

Another task of the I CRC is to collect, analyse and use information on recent casualties from UXO-mine accidents for use in planning targeted mine action.