04/07/2017, 11.23
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UN: 50 years and billions of dollars to demine Syria and Iraq

UNMAS Director: "Decades of work" to clean up contaminated areas. In Iraq, the annual cost of demining is approximately $ 180 million. Even the Chaldean primate wants land secured prior to the return of refugees. Every year landmines kill more than 6400 people.


Baghdad (AsiaNews) – It will take at least 50 years to clean up the land by underground landmines and unexploded bombs, Syria and Iraq, according to UN sources, denouncing that in the underground of the two Middle East countries are hidden deadly traps for civilians. A similar drama to what happened in Cambodia and Laos where, today, half a century after the war in Indochina, people are still subjected to amputation or death from unexploded legacy of the conflict.

In conjunction with the twelfth UN International Day against landmines, April 4, Agnes Marcaillou stressed that it will take "decades of work" to clean up the land. The director of UNMAS (United Nations Mine Action Service) speaks of a scenario similar to the European continent  "at the end of the Second World War", where " unexploded ordnance can still be found here and there ".

According to figures provided by the United Nations expert, every year it will cost between 170 and the 180 million to "clean up" the areas taken from the Islamic State in Iraq. Among these, the Nineveh plain (home to several Christian towns) and Mosul, the second largest city of the country and long considered a stronghold and capital of the self-proclaimed "caliphate".

Marcaillou pointed out that the figure of $ 50 million is needed each year to break free from weapons circulating in Mosul. For months an international coalition led by the United States in support of Iraqi forceshave been leading an offensive  to retake the city in the hands of the Islamic State (IS) for almost three years. In January, the authorities declared the eastern sector "completely free", while clashes are still ongoing in the western sector.

The UNMAS director confirms that the work for the safety of the lands in Syria and Iraq will be complex, sophisticated and "far-reaching." However, the UN expert shows optimism adding that the goal will be achieved in a not too distant future. "The greater the funds – she explains - the greater the staff that we can employ" for soil detection.

The goal is to make the Iraqi government independent, so that it can tackle the work of demining as did the governments in London, Paris and Berlin at the end of the war. Therefore, concludes Macaillou, the financing of the international community will be essential in allowing the return of displaced people to their homes and lands.

The issue of landmines and unexploded bombs is also at the center of the Iraqi Church concerns. Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako has intervened on several occasions asking for the demining of the Nineveh plain and return the land to the Christian refugees (and non-Christian). In a letter-appeal last September, the Chaldean Primate stressed that before rebuilding homes, churches and hospitals "mine clearance is essential".

"Today - added the prelate - more than two years on from the taking of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain militia by the IS [...] is" difficult to know in what condition we will find the villages "after their liberation. "Before returning to restore new life to our dear beloved towns", he continues, it will be necessary to "remove a devious enemy, hiding under the ground, and sometimes even in everyday items". "Today - said Mar Sako - we have to seriously deal with the post Daesh and plan the return to life of this fertile and ancient plain”.

According to a report by the United Nations every year landmines kill more than 6400 people. In 2015 it is estimated that they injured or killed 18 people a day for a total of 6460 victims. Although the use of mines is limited, they are used especially in Myanmar, Libya, Syria and Iraq.


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