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Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Programs: The Middle East


To Walk the Earth in Safety: The U.S. Commitment to Humanitarian Mine Action
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
August 2004
Report
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MIDDLE EAST

EGYPT

Flag of EgyptThe Landmine Problem

Egypt is one of the most landmine- and unexploded ordnance (UXO)-afflicted countries on earth. The Government of Egypt claims that the country is infested with approximately 20,000,000-21,000,000 mines and UXO, and that removing or destroying them is essential to public safety and national development efforts. The largest mine and UXO problem, dating from World War II, exists in the northern portion of the Western Desert, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, between the Nile Delta and the Libyan border; the most heavily mined areas are Alexandria, El Alamein, Ras-Al-Hekilometersa, Marsa Matruth, Sidi Barrani and Salloum. Post-World War II-emplaced landmines and UXO are in the east, in the Suez Canal area, along the western coast of the Red Sea, and in the Sinai Peninsula. The mines and UXO affect 2,800 square kilometers of land: 2,539 square kilometers in the west, and 261 square kilometers in the east. According to the Egyptian Army, landmines and UXO have killed at least 696 people (including 418 civilians) and injured at least 7,617 people (4,599 civilians) since the end of World War II, with the majority of serious injuries having occurred in the east.

United States Assistance

In previous years, Egypt received assistance from the United States to fund a U.S. military "Train-the-Trainer" program and to provide for the acquisition of modern demining equipment. In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense has evaluated mechanical demining systems in the World War II battlefields surrounding El Alamein. Humanitarian mine action in Egypt is closely connected to the country's overall development goals, particularly along the northern Egyptian coast. In 2002, the U.S.-funded training program for deminers continued using residual funds, including a seminar on mine action held at the end of April 2003.

Accomplishments

The "Train-the-Trainer" program focused on mine detection and disposal, mine risk education and survey and information management. Training also included a leadership and operations seminar for Egyptian Army battalion and company commanders. In March 2003, Egypt announced a national plan to clear mines and to develop the northwest coast that would begin immediately. It is estimated that this effort will take 20 years to complete.

MIDDLE EAST

IRAQ

Flag of IraqThe Landmine Problem

Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Iraq was believed to be one of the most heavily mined countries of the world. Some landmines there date back to World War II. Iraqi forces placed most landmines during Saddam Hussein's internal and external conflicts in the 1970s and 1980s. Iraq laid more landmines on its own soil during the 1991 Gulf War following its invasion of Kuwait, and sowed additional mines on its territory during the 2003 conflict.

Before OIF, humanitarian mine action efforts were limited to the northern Kurdish-controlled areas. The United Nations, the United States and other donors supported substantial mine risk education and landmine/unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance projects in those areas. Meanwhile, civilians living under the control of Saddam Hussein's regime risked injury or death from persistent landmines, and humanitarian demining was actually prohibited. Following the liberation, Coalition forces, the Department of State's Quick Reaction Demining Force, Department of State-contracted RONCO Consulting Corporation, Mines Advisory Group, Norwegian People's Aid and other non-governmental organizations rapidly began clearing landmines and UXO throughout Iraq, returning valuable land and infrastructure to productive use.

United States Assistance

Abandoned ordnance left behind in sizable quantities throughout Iraq by Saddam Hussein's forces also posed a major humanitarian threat, besides emplaced landmines and UXO.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made significant progress in securing former regime munitions, such as this cache of artillery shells and mortar rounds, and commencing their safe destruction.In 2002, the Department of State provided $2,150,138 to Mines Advisory Group and Norwegian People's Aid ($1,413,292 and $746,846 respectively) to reinforce their existing humanitarian mine action operations in northern Iraq so as to improve the safety and living conditions of Iraqis living in that area. In 2003, the Department of State provided $15,218,000 to Iraq in humanitarian mine action assistance. These funds helped to establish Iraq's first National Mine Action Authority and regional Mine Action Centers in Baghdad, Irbil and Basrah. Assistance also allowed for the creation of the non-governmental Iraqi Mine/UXO Clearance Organization equipped with modern metal detectors, mine detecting dogs, manual demining and explosive ordnance demolition expertise, highly qualified medical technicians and logistic and administrative support personnel and equipment.

Accomplishments

Immediately after the defeat of Saddam Hussein's forces, the Department of State's Quick Reaction Demining Force (QRDF) clearance of mines and UXO around downed power lines enabled Iraqi crews to repair the electrical grid system and increase power to Baghdad by fifty percent, affecting service to more than three million Iraqis. The QRDF performed operations in the Al Hilla and Baghdad regions and cleared more than 9,583 square kilometers in two minefields, as well as 1,856,434.29 square kilometers. In addition, RONCO Consulting Corporation trained and equipped a cadre of nine demining teams with mine detecting dogs and provided technical advice and management training.

The United States also took other significant steps to strengthen humanitarian mine action in Iraq. The Department of State completed a thorough inventory of United Nations "Oil-for-Food" mine action assets in northern Iraq and then successfully transferred UN authority and those assets (equipment, vehicles, facilities) to Iraqi control. Turnover was completed in November 2003. Also in 2003, the Department of State designed a national humanitarian mine action strategy for Iraq and formulated a mine action budget for the following year - fiscal year 2004- in excess of $100 million of which about $40 million is being funded by Iraq. The Iraqi Government has made a significant contribution to Iraq's demining and UXO clearance needs by contributing personnel, equipment, facilities and vehicles to its national and regional mine action infrastructure. Finally, the Department of State created a national landmine database and first accredited and then coordinated all civil mine action activities with those of the Coalition forces.

MIDDLE EAST

JORDAN

Flag of JordanThe Landmine Problem

According to the Royal Corps of Engineers of the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), approximately 310,000 landmines seriously affect an area of approximately 100 square kilometers. Most mines date from the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. The majority of landmines are located in two discrete areas in the northwest region of the Jordan River Valley: one area near the northern end of the Valley on the border with Syria, near Lake Tiberias, and the other farther south, near the northern end of the Dead Sea. Israeli-laid minefields are located mainly in the southwest part of the country in the Araba Valley in areas restored to Jordan after the Israeli occupation. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) is not a serious problem in Jordan. According to the head of the Engineering Corps, "The Jordanian Armed Forces planted up to 236,774 mines among which 85,665 are anti-tank (AT) and 151,009 are anti-personnel (AP) in the Aqaba region, Jordan Valley, the Jordanian-Syrian borders, while Israel planted up to 73,153 mines among which 8,323 are AT and 64,802 are AP in the Jordan Valley and Al Baqoura." Demining is difficult because many of the mines, laid more than 30 years ago, have moved due to erosion, shifting sands, rain and mudslides. At present, the Government's demining operations focus on the 300 minefields in the Jordan River Valley. The Valley is the most fertile farmland in Jordan, a country where arable land is scarce, and these mines severely impede the production of food crops. JAF Medical Services reports that at least 636 Jordanians, including 370 civilians, have become landmine victims since 1967, and 92 of these victims died from injuries. The majority of civilian casualties were farmers, shepherds, hunters and children. The Government reported 15 new mine casualties in 2002, and casualties continued in 2003 with the injury of two more people.

United States Assistance

Jordanian deminers wearing U.S.-provided personal protective equipment bring up lane demarcation stakes.In FY03, the U.S. Department of State committed $893,000 for the purchase of equipment and spare parts for Jordan's humanitarian mine action program. The majority of funding from previous years went to the purchase of demining equipment and spare parts. The funds also enabled Jordan to receive U.S. military humanitarian mine action training to International Mine Action Standards and to acquire a computer-managed training system known as the Demining Support System. Many of the remaining minefields are in areas with rough terrain. Demining in these areas will require heavy equipment and new technologies that U.S. funding can provide, such as bulldozers, front-end loaders, dump trucks and manual demining equipment (personal protective vests, helmets, and mine detectors). The U.S. Department of Defense has tested several mechanical mine clearance systems in Jordan, including the Mini-Flail, the Enhanced Teleoperated Ordnance Disposal System and the Rhino. The United States will continue to support Jordan's mine action operations and work with the Government toward the goal of the country becoming mine-safe early this century.

Accomplishments

Since 1997, a national mine risk education program and successful demining operations have reduced civilian casualties dramatically, while the use of more effective personal protective equipment has lowered military casualties significantly. U.S. military training has improved the capabilities of Jordan's Royal Corps of Engineers in mine detection and disposal, mine risk education and survey and information management. At present, Jordan is conducting Technical Surveys of minefields along the Syrian border. In addition, after a joint effort to clear 10 Israeli-laid minefields in the Araba Valley, Jordan and Israel are discussing a strategy to remove the remaining mines. U.S. assistance has helped Jordan to keep 100 deminers in the field on a daily basis. From the beginning of the national demining program in 1993 to April 2003, demining operations have cleared and destroyed 57,391 anti-personnel mines and 40,407 anti-vehicle mines from 10,953 square kilometers of land.

MIDDLE EAST

LEBANON

Flag of LebanonThe Landmine Problem

The French Mandate period (1923-1943), the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and the time during which Israel occupied south Lebanon (1978-2000) have created a country with a large landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem. There are approximately 130,000 landmines and UXO in the former Israeli security zone, and approximately 150,000 more in the rest of Lebanon. In December 2001, the Government of Israel informed the Government of Lebanon of the presence of another 300,000 landmines, mainly along the border between the two countries. A U.S.-funded survey conducted by Lebanon's Landmines Resource Center in 1998 and 1999 confirmed that minefields and suspected minefield locations include agricultural areas, former battlefields and cities and villages located along old demarcation lines. Although some minefields are marked and fenced off, many others remain unmarked. Subsequent assessments have also found that the threat of improvised explosive devices, coupled with mines and other UXO, have left Lebanon with an unusually diverse and complex problem. More than 40 percent of reported landmine victims suffered injuries while engaged in agricultural activities, the major source of income for villagers. In South Lebanon and West Bekaa a noticeable decrease in agricultural production has been noted because of the presence of landmines. New minefields and dangerous areas are still being discovered and tasked for clearance as demining progresses in South Lebanon.

United States Assistance

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2003, the United States allocated $1,475,000 in humanitarian mine action aid. With help from the United States, Lebanon implemented a mine detecting dog (MDD) program, provided logistical demining training services to the National Demining Office of the Lebanese Armed Forces (NDO/LAF) and purchased mine detectors and heavy demining equipment, all of which have provided an innovative means of improving the country's demining capability. In 2003, Department of Defense personnel provided training to NDO and LAF personnel focusing on areas of UXO identification and destruction, mine risk education and program management. In preceding years, the U.S. Department of Defense provided Thiokol demining flares to the LAF for field-testing in an effort to enhance their capability to dispose of landmines and UXO. Additional assistance has come from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which funded the establishment of a mine-victim rehabilitation center in Jezzine, the site of the highest concentration of landmine victims. The Rehabilitation Center provides vocational training for 374 landmine victims and organizes mine risk education campaigns warning about the dangers of landmines.

In 1996, USAID's Leahy War Victims Fund began supporting the World Rehabilitation Fund's (WRF) nationwide prosthetics and orthotics program, facilitating greater awareness and understanding of the magnitude of the landmine problem and its related social burden. Findings from this effort set the foundation for the 1998 launch of a first-of-its-kind, nationwide humanitarian mine action program.

Accomplishments

In 2002, the Lebanese Army reported demining 1.7 million square meters of land, 70 percent of which will allow the construction of new housing for returnees to these previous mine-affected areas, as well as the use of infrastructure and roads. In 2003, the Army reported clearing 642 anti-personnel mines, 160 anti-vehicle mines, 14,031 bombs and other UXO. The United States continues to work with Lebanon toward the goal of achieving a qualified, trained and equipped cadre of deminers capable of conducting the country's own humanitarian mine action program.

Now, USAID funds WRF's "Expanding Economic Opportunities for Survivors of Landmines in the District of Jizzine in South Lebanon" program to foster the economic inclusion of war-affected individuals. Through this initiative, landmine survivors engage in income-generating agricultural activities such as egg production, bee keeping and honey processing.

MIDDLE EAST

YEMEN

Flag of YemenThe Landmine Problem

Mines were used in Yemen during three main periods: 1962-1969, 1970-1983 and in 1994. A Landmine Impact Survey identified 592 mine-affected communities in 95 districts in 19 of Yemen's 20 Governorates. Approximately 828,000 people, about six percent of the population, live in these communities. Of the approximate 1,100 identified contaminated areas, 859 contain mines affecting 799 square kilometers of land, and unexploded ordnance (UXO), located in 200 locations, cover an area of 200 square kilometers of land. Combatants laid these landmines in an arbitrary and haphazard fashion in sand dunes and fields and alongside roads without marking their locations. The mines block access to grazing land and to water sources for drinking and irrigation. For this reason, herders and children who do not attend school are the most vulnerable to landmine injuries. Since 1998, landmines have caused more than 700 casualties.

United States Assistance

A Yemeni Army deminer, garbed with personal protective equipment supplied by the United States, learns how to properly excavate a landmine as a U.S. military The United States contributed $750,000 to humanitarian mine action to Yemen in FY03. U.S. funding from previous years has enabled Yemen to acquire, among other items, additional demining equipment, vehicles, mine clearance materials, medical supplies and logistic support items and to continue current mine clearance contracts. In addition, mine detectors, vehicles and personal protective equipment for all deminers were procured to help equip a demining company.

U.S. assistance has also funded a national demining program infrastructure and a Train-the-Trainer program, conducted by U.S. military personnel. Mine risk education and mine survivor assistance teams have educated the local populace on demining efforts, while locating and offering help to those injured by landmines. As part of its commitment to the Government of Yemen, the United States will help to establish a program that will assist the country in becoming mine-safe.

Accomplishments

Yemen's humanitarian mine action program is producing visible results, and it enjoys an exceptional reputation, locally and internationally. Using the results of the world's first nationwide Landmine Impact Survey, funded in part by the United States, a five-year strategic plan was developed to clear 14 high-impact communities. By the end of 2002, six of these communities had been cleared and declared safe.

A U.S. ophthalmology team has treated more than 100 landmine survivors and has simultaneously conducted medical training for local personnel.



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