2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Middle East and North Africa
In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the high hopes of the 2011 Arab Spring movement have given way to prolonged conflict and regional instability, with some refugees and internally displaced persons being forced to relocate multiple times. Renewed conflict in Iraq has driven civilians from their homes and created new UXO and landmine hazards, whereas the ongoing violence in Libya and Syria remains closely linked to the illicit flow and use of small arms and light weapons throughout the region.
Landmines and UXO from past and ongoing conflicts remain a constant threat to the regions’ inhabitants as they escape fighting. According to recent figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, several million Syrian refugees have now fled to neighboring countries, for example, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, while 2 million Iraqi civilians have become internally displaced. As refugees and internally displaced persons move into unfamiliar areas, they face unknown and unmarked UXO and landmine obstacles resulting in an increased risk of injury or death.
Funding and implementing CWD programs is critical to increasing regional stability and prosperity. In 2014, the United States increased mine risk education assistance to Syrian refugees and Iraqi internally displaced persons (in particular children) enhancing public knowledge on the dangers of UXO and landmines.
The Republic of Tunisia reported completing clearance of all known mined areas by the end of March 2009; however, a residual mine threat continues to impact the country. In 2012, with aid from the United States and the international community, Jordan became the first country in the Middle East to declare itself free from the impact of known minefields. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $421 million in CWD funding to the Middle East and North Africa, providing an essential component to building stable societies.