ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The presence of unexploded ordnance and mines in areas liberated from the so-called Islamic State in Iraq continues to hinder the safe and voluntary return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said on Sunday.
“The scale, density, and complexity of explosive hazards is unprecedented, making Iraq one of the most contaminated countries in the world,” UNMAS said in a statement.
During its years-long insurgency in Iraq, the terror group planted mines and other explosive devices in homes and streets in many northern Iraqi cities which it controlled.
The UN organization said that despite Iraq having defeated the Islamic State nearly two years ago, the dangers of mines remains “one of the primary inhibitors for the safe, dignified, and voluntary return” of IDPs to their homes.
UNMAS has worked with partner nations like Germany and the United Kingdom to train and equip local authorities on risk education and mine removal.
Pehr Lodhammar, the Senior Programme Manager of UNMAS in Iraq, said in the statement that the organization is committed to “the safe and voluntary return” of displaced Iraqis.
“We cannot do that when an estimated 70 percent of explosive hazards still lie beneath the rubble.”
According to statistics from Iraq’s Ministry of Immigration, only about three million people out of over five million have returned to their homes with the rest remaining in camps in the Kurdistan Region.
Unexploded weaponry is the most significant challenge Iraqi authorities face regarding the return of displaced people to their areas, especially in the provinces of Nineveh and Kirkuk.