ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The government of Sweden has donated USD 8.3 million to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as it continues to remove mines and explosive devices the Islamic State left behind in liberated areas of Iraq.
“With this contribution from Sweden, UNMAS will be able to better support communities with explosive hazard management, risk education, and capacity enhancement initiatives in support of the Iraqi government,” the UN organization said in a statement.
Since Iraq announced the military defeat of the Islamic State in December 2017, UNMAS has cleared over 1,100 sites of explosive devices the extremist group left behind.
“These include bridges, water plants, power plants, hospitals, schools, etc. that were once the strongholds of ISIL and which were littered with explosive hazards after their defeat.”
According to the United Nations, up to 52 percent of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across camps in northern Iraq and the Kurdistan Region “cite explosive hazards as a main reason for not intending to return to their areas of origin.”
Sweden’s Ambassador to Iraq, Pontus Melander, recently underlined “how explosive hazards prevent humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and the safe return” of IDPs to their homes.
Mine and explosive clearing efforts “are crucial for both the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection of civilians, as well as being a precondition for safe reconstructions and returns,” Melander added.
About 1.8 million people are still living in displacement camps as reconstruction efforts in their original areas are ongoing.
The Kurdistan Region, in particular, has shouldered the burden of IDPs since the Islamic State emerged in mid-2014 and often relies on its resources to aid the displaced persons.