Cluster munitions maim and kill Iraqis every day
Iraq - Every year hundreds of Iraqis are killed or maimed by cluster munitions and landmines, due to Iraq’s contamination of millions of explosive remnants of war (ERW). According to Iraqi figures, the contamination claimed 14,000 victims between 1991 and 2007, while in the three Kurdish governorates the estimated number of victims (both injuries and deaths) was 8,174 between 1991 and 2008.
Around one million Iraqi children are affected by mines and unexploded ordinance (UXOs), with some 2,000 children (a quarter of all victims) maimed or killed due to cluster bomblets since 1991. It is believed, according to the Landmine Impact Survey from 2006, that 1,730 square kilometres of land in Iraq are contaminated, affecting more than 1.6 million Iraqis in some 4,000 communities across the country.
According to a joint UNICEF-UNDP report, ‘Overview of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War in Iraq’ released in July 2009, an estimated 2.66 million cluster bomblets and 20 million landmines are contaminating Iraq’s oil fields and farmlands. The contamination kills and ruins lives randomly, and significantly impedes both the economic recovery of Iraqis and their country. The landmines were planted in areas bordering Iran, a legacy of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, while the millions of unexploded cluster munitions were dropped during the 1991 Gulf War and 2003 conflict.
To provide specialized care and services for mine victims, UNDP — with funding from Japan and Australia — supports rehabilitation centres in the three Kurdish governorates, providing over 10,000 physiotherapy sessions, 4,500 mobility aids and nearly 4,800 ortho-prosthetic devices. Under UNDP’s technical supervision, Iraqi operators have cleared 15 million square metres of land, helping 1,500 families return to their farms — and getting their 2,400 children back to school.
Iraq’s signature of the Mine Ban Treaty came into force in February 2008. Under the terms of the Convention, Iraq must clear all areas containing or suspected to contain anti-personnel mines before February 2018.
For the past 10 years, UNICEF has supported the Mine Risk Education Programme in Iraq where two million people received information and prevention tools on the dangers of mines and explosive remnants of war. UNDP coordinates UN Mine Action activities in Iraq, supporting the Iraqi Government and civilian mine action authorities through building an ERW clearing capacity and developing a coordination and regulatory framework on mine action.
On the occasion of the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention of Cluster Munitions, taking place in Vientiane (Laos) during 9-12 November, a photo essay by the Italian photojournalist Giovanni Diffidenti highlighting the plight of Iraqi victims of cluster munitions is being exhibited at the conference venue. These are some of the photos.