2012 To Walk the Earth in Safety: The Middle East
The arid climate of the Middle East is home to approximately 5 percent of the world’s population and is the birthplace of three major world religions. The relative wealth of the resource rich economies of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates sharply contrasts with the neighboring mineral-poor or conflict-embroiled economies of Iraq or Yemen. The region has been plagued by recent civil wars, border disputes, and internal unrest, and explosive remnants of these conflicts continue to affect the daily lives of residents. In contrast, in April 2012, Jordan announced that it is “minefield free.” It is the first country in the Middle East to declare this status.
Iraq is severely affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as a result of several decades of conflict. In spite of progress, at least 1,863 square kilometers (719 square miles) of land are still contaminated, containing as many as 20 million landmines and millions of pieces of UXO. This contamination affects at least 1,670 Iraqi cities, towns, and villages, with most of the contaminated area located on agricultural land, making clearance an economic necessity, as well as a security priority.
Since 2003, the United States has invested more than $209 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) projects in Iraq aimed at clearance and safe disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess weapons and munitions. The U.S. CWD Program in Iraq aims to protect victims of conflict through innovative risk education and victim-assistance projects, restore access to land and infrastructure by introducing mechanical technologies and mine detection dogs (MDD), and reinvigorate host-nation development by providing subject-matter experts to conduct an assessment of Iraq’s mine-action capabilities.
Children give an anti-mine performance in Halshoo village, Suleimania governorate, Iraq, where mine-risk education is funded by UNICEF and taught to grades 1 through 9. Photo courtesy of UN/Bikem Ekberzade.
In FY2011, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $22 million to Iraq for CWD programs that cleared landmines and UXO and provided mine risk education (MRE) as follows:
• Danish Demining Group returned nearly 9 million square meters (almost 3.5 square miles) of land to communities for safe use for agriculture, grazing, infrastructure, and development in Central and Southern Iraq.
• Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining received support and funding to conduct an assessment of Iraq’s mine-action capabilities and develop a two-to-three year plan for Iraq’s training and capacity development.
• Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP) received funding to provide operational management, strategic planning, and victim-assistance support. iMMAP delivered five workshops and 13 training courses, successfully training 146 students in information management, data collection, and mapping and 82 rehabilitation technicians who will subsequently treat thousands of landmine, UXO, and improvised explosive-device victims.
• Iraq Mine/UXO Clearance Organization (IMCO) Central/Southern Iraq received funding to provide clearance services. IMCO returned more than 2.5 million square meters (almost 618 acres) of land to the Iraqi population. In addition, funding supported the IMCO Southern Iraq Compound Relocation. The Al-Zubayr compound was handed over to the Iraqi government near the end of 2011. IMCO relocated to a new compound near the main city of Basra.
• Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) received funding in partnership with IMCO to expand the MDD program in Southern Iraq. MLI and IMCO established the first rehabilitation/vocational training facility in Southern Iraq for landmine/explosive remnants of war survivors.
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) received funding for Northern and Central Iraq CWD. As a result of minefield and battle area clearance, MAG returned close to 2 million square meters (494 acres) of land to communities for safe use for agriculture and economic development.
• Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) received funding to provide technical advisors to the Regional Mine Action Center-South (RMAC-S) to assist RMAC-S in fulfilling its role as a regulatory body that is able to coordinate, monitor, and regulate mine-action activities. This project has enabled RMAC-S to implement a nontechnical survey designed to provide a more accurate picture of the mine/ERW situation in Southern Iraq.
• RONCO Consulting Corporation (RONCO) was given funding to provide security services in Iraq. Due to the ongoing security challenges in the country, RONCO continued to provide secure transportation and accommodation in the center and south for all U.S.-funded CWD implementing partners and local staff.
• Spirit of Soccer (SoS) was funded in cooperation with other implementing partners to expand its mine/UXO-risk education projects throughout Iraq. SoS implements innovative projects using soccer as a means to promote mine/UXO messages to children living in regions deemed at high-risk of landmine/ERW contamination.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in partnership with MAG, continued evaluations of several excavator sifting attachments, a stand-alone orbital sifter, and a commercial front-loader attachment. The assistance, valued at $300,000, included support to repair and improve a vehicle-mounted portable sifting system. To date, the equipment has sifted 86,000 cubic meters (112,484 cubic yards) of contaminated soil and uncovered or destroyed 1,800 mines and pieces of UXO. MAG continues to utilize the equipment in clearing villages and agricultural areas that have been mine-affected for more than 20 years. Though the figures are modest, the equipment consistently locates mines where manual clearance or MDDs are not feasible, and without which MAG would be unable to complete and handover many of the sites. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Program, visit: http://humanitarian-demining.org.
James Madison University Professor, Fernando Pargas, conducts class at the Explosive Remnants of War Training Course in Jordan. Photo courtesy of CISR.
Jordan is contaminated by anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) as a result of the 1948 partition of Palestine, the 1967–1969 Arab-Israeli conflict, the 1970 civil war, and the 1975 conflict with Syria. Most of the concentration is along the northern border with Syria, the western border with Israel, and the eastern border with Iraq. At one point, military records indicated as many as 305,000 mines covering 60 million square meters (more than 23 square miles). In April 2012, Jordan announced it completed its Article 5 obligations to the Convention on the Prohibition, Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.
From FY1996–FY2011, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested $21,771,568 in conventional weapons destruction, including humanitarian mine action in Jordan.
In FY2011, PM/WRA spent $2,014,568 for the following efforts:
• Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) in partnership with Jordan’s National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) received funding to support mine clearance along the Syrian border.
• NCDR was funded to support mine-risk education, undertake quality-management operations for demining activities along the Jordan-Syrian border, and continue ERW software and database development.
• NCDR received a grant to support the ERW Senior Managers’ Training Course to provide comprehensive training to senior officials from national mine/ERW action programs in various countries.
Participants of the Pathways to Resilience Psycho-social Rehabilitation Workshop held in Lebanon in May 2011 participate in a small group activity. The PM/WRA-sponsored workshop was implemented by James Madison University’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery. Photo courtesy of CISR.
Landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), cluster munitions and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) contaminate Lebanon largely as a result of the 1975 civil war and the Israeli occupation of Lebanon (1982–2000). The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 further exacerbated the situation, resulting in large levels of new cluster munitions and other UXO contamination. In 2003, a Landmine Impact Survey found that Lebanon had 306 communities affected by 933 mine and UXO-contaminated sites over 137 square kilometers (about 53 square miles) of land.
From FY1998 to FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested more than $33,593,000 in assistance to Lebanon, $10 million of which was emergency assistance provided in response to the 2006 conflict. U.S. financial assistance has led to the integration of mine-detection dog (MDD) teams, mechanical flails, and manual deminers in clearance activities by the Lebanese Armed Forces.
In FY2011, PM/WRA invested $2,225,000 in Lebanon as follows:
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) received funding to support three battle-area clearance (BAC) teams to clear cluster munitions and other conventional weapons.
• DynCorp received funding to support host-nation capacity building efforts and implementation of conventional weapons destruction, and to establish and provide oversight to the first local mine-action nongovernmental organization in Lebanon.
• Swiss Foundation for Mine Action was granted funding to support one BAC team in South Lebanon and to ensure all ERW are located and destroyed.
• DanChurchAid (DCA) received funding to support one BAC team in South Lebanon to increase the possibilities of land use, alleviate risk through clearance of cluster munitions/landmine contaminated areas, and build national capacities for Lebanese clearance efforts.
• Lebanese Demining Organization was funded to support two non-technical survey teams for data collection and verification and to provide technical advisory support to the national mine action initiative.
• ITF Enhancing Human Security (formerly the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance)/DCA received funding as a matching grant to support land release through continued cluster-munitions clearance throughout South Lebanon and to continue capacity-building of the national staff.
• Marshall Legacy Institute/American Task Force for Lebanon was provided a cost-share grant to assist the Lebanese Mine Action Center with training for its MDD detachment and to help with their mine-risk education and survivor-assistance program.
Also in FY2011, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund provided $800,000 to the World Rehabilitation Fund for ongoing support to provide meaningful employment opportunities for landmine survivors in the Jezzine province.
MAG (Mines Advisory Group) clears ordnance in Libya. Photo courtesy of Sean Sutton/MAG.
In mid-February 2011, following civilian protests in Tunisia and Egypt, the people of Libya began protesting against Mu’ammar Qadhafi’s government. As unrest spread throughout the country, Libyan security forces began responding with violence, which escalated into armed conflict. In March 2011, a coalition of NATO Allies and partners began enforcing an arms embargo, maintaining a no-fly zone and protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas from attack or the threat of attack in Libya under Operation Unified Protector. Since the Transitional National Council formed a new government in November 2011, the security situation has largely stabilized; however, insecurity still affects some areas. As a result of the conflict, the country is extensively contaminated with landmines, unexploded ordnance, and small arms and light weapons, which are flowing into neighboring countries and affecting regional stability.
In FY2011, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State provided a total of $91,976,414 to Libya. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided nearly $3 million for the clearance of unexploded ordnance, and destruction of unsecured conventional weapons including man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) through its implementing partners, MAG (Mines Advisory Group) and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action. Additionally, PM/WRA provided $2.75 million through its Quick Reaction Force, which worked with Libyan-led teams tasked with accounting for and securing MANPADS and other conventional weapons. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration provided $60 million to assist internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrants in Libya and neighboring countries. USAID granted $28,977,810 to support conflict affected populations in Libya and neighboring countries through agriculture, food security, health, logistics, protection, and water, sanitation, and hygiene activities.
A Yemeni boy is fitted for a new prosthetic arm. Photo courtesy of MLI.
Yemen is contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as a result of several conflicts from 1962 until today, including the 1962–1975 war between republicans and royalists, the 1963–1967 Aden Insurgency, almost two decades of simmering conflict between the formerly separate countries in North and South Yemen, and the 1994 Civil War. In July 2000, a national Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) revealed that 19 out of the country’s 20 governorates were mine/UXO-affected, adversely affecting 592 villages. The LIS also identified 1,078 mined areas covering more than 923 square kilometers (356 square miles). In addition, small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) are readily found in the homes of Yemeni citizens. Although there is no reliable data about the exact number of arms in people’s hands, a study conducted by the Small Arms Survey in 2003 came to an estimate of 6–9 million SA/LW in circulation.
From FY1997–FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested more than $11 million in humanitarian mine action and SA/LW destruction. In December 2010, clearance was completed in all 14 Yemeni communities highly affected by mines and UXO, except for three minefields subject to permanent marking.
Clearance was also completed in 81 of 86 medium-affected communities, and as of December 2010 a total of 89,201 antipersonnel mines, 716 anti-tank mines, and 190,564 items of UXO were cleared from 782.8million square meters (302 square miles) of land.
In FY2011, PM/WRA invested $1,075,000 to fund demining and recovery efforts as follows:
• United Nations Development Programme received funding to support existing mine action efforts in Yemen, replace necessary equipment, provide medical care, and provide reintegration support and facilities for landmine/UXO survivors. It was also funded to assist the government of Yemen in efforts to achieve more cost-effective mine-action field operations, reduce landmine/ERW victim rates through mine-risk education, clear and mark suspected hazardous areas, and modify existing mine-action structures for long-term sustainability.
• Marshall Legacy Institute was provided a grant to implement the Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) in partnership with the Yemen Mine Action Center and the Yemen Association for Landmine Survivors. CHAMPS promotes awareness of landmine/UXO issues and cross-cultural understanding among the world’s children and provides landmine survivor assistance with grassroots support.
The Palestinian Territories are contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war as a result of decades of conflict since 1948. Although the exact amount of contamination is unknown, the mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) threat has increased over the years, with at least 15 minefields confirmed across the Palestinian Territories, including 20 square kilometers (almost 8 square miles) of the West Bank.
In FY2011, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $309,284 in grants. The HALO Trust received funding for a grant, entitled, “Building Humanitarian Mine Action Capacity followed by Humanitarian Mine Clearance and Mine Risk Education (MRE) in the Palestinian Territories.” The overall goal of this grant is to advance peace and human security in the West Bank through efficient, neutral, needs-focused MRE and mine action. Additionally, PM/WRA provided a grant to the Slovenia-based ITF Enhancing Human Security (formerly the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance) in order to provide medical assistance to eight conflict-affected children with amputated limbs, partial paralysis of lower limbs, or cerebral paralysis. The children received state-of the-art medical treatment and rehabilitation at the University Rehabilitation Institute of the Republic of Slovenia-Soča.