A new United Nations report warns that Iraq may not be able to meet its obligations under an international treaty to rid the country of the deadly scourge of anti-personnel landmines, and calls for greater efforts to ensure a safe environment for the population.
Iraq acceded to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, in 2008. In doing so, it committed itself to destroy stockpiled mines in four years and to clear minefields in 10 years.
However, a joint report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF), released today with the Iraqi Ministry of Environment, raises concerns that the country is unable to meet its treaty obligations.
After decades of war and conflict, Iraq has become one of the world`s most contaminated countries in terms of landmines and unexploded remnants of war, impacting the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, said Paolo Lembo, UNDP`s Country Director for Iraq.
Unfortunately, with the Government`s current capacities and resources, it is unlikely Iraq will be able to meet its obligations under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, as it will take decades to clear all mines and unexploded ordnance, he stated.
The report, Overview of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War in Iraq, " points out that some 20 million landmines and 2.6 million cluster bomblets are contaminating more than 1,700 square kilometres of Iraq`s land, including oil fields and farmlands.
These unexploded remnants of war are affecting more than 1.6 million Iraqis in some 4,000 communities by significantly impeding both their own and their country`s economic recovery, the agencies said in a joint news release.
Since 2008, around 20 square kilometres have been cleared by national and international demining organizations and nearly 276,700 people have received mine-awareness training through UNICEF-supported activities.
According to UNICEF, around 1 million Iraqi children are at risk of being injured or killed by mines and unexploded ordnance. In addition, 2,000 children have been maimed or killed by cluster bomblets since 2003.
Iraqi children have the right to grow up in a safe environment without risk to their well-being and lives as much as any other child in the world, said Sikander Khan, UNICEF`s Iraq Representative. More action to clear mines and other unexploded ordnance is urgently needed so all Iraqi children can grow up without fear of this hidden enemy and be assured of a safer and better future.