Syria is contaminated by a vast range of explosive hazards, from traditional landmines and unexploded ordnance too highly complex improvised explosive devices (IEDs). While no country-wide survey has been conducted, mine action and humanitarian organizations believe it is one of the most contaminated regions in the world.
In coordination with the Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ (PM) Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (WRA) provides Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) assistance to areas liberated from ISIS in North East Syria (NES). Clearance operations are essential for the safe return of internally displaced persons whose homes and essential services have been targeted with explosive devices left by ISIS during their retreat. In addition to clearance activities, mine risk education (MRE) programs teach civilians and returnees how to identify and respond if they encounter explosive hazards in their communities.
Since Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, PM/WRA has provided over $80 million to support CWD efforts in Syria, leading to the following results:
- Removed and cleared more than 30,000 landmines, pieces of unexploded ordnance, and IEDs from over 25 million square meters of land, facilitating the stabilization of critical infrastructure and return of agricultural land previously denied to Syrians by ISIS-placed explosive hazards.
- Cleared over 350 critical infrastructure sites in Raqqa Governorate consisting primarily of health facilities, schools, irrigation and water treatment and distribution facilities, electrical infrastructure, and governance structures.
- Cleared Raqqa and Tabqa hospitals, with Tabqa hospital providing medical services to over 5,000 residents a month. Additionally, the clearance of Tabqa and Ba’ath dams and associated electric infrastructure have supplied power to over 750,000 residents in Raqqa and Tabqa.
- Trained over 250 vetted Syrian nationals to international mine action standards level 1, creating an enduring and local solution for future ERW removal efforts in NES.
- Delivered MRE to over 450,000 Syrians, including 70,000 returnees to Raqqa city. The majority of MRE programming targets vulnerable populations in camps for internally displaced persons and in heavily contaminated areas. Casualty rates in Raqqa among returnees have decreased from an average of eight a day shortly after liberation to one a month at present.
- Developed an interactive mapping and information management portal to share the latest mine action data in real time with humanitarian organizations, the United Nations, Coalition, and international partners. This portal allows all relevant stakeholders to track the progress of mine action activities so that they can effectively direct follow-on humanitarian and stabilization assistance.
The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear ERW. Since 1993, the United States has contributed more than $3.4 billion to more than 100 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war. For more information on U.S. humanitarian demining and CWD programs, check out the latest edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety.
For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM.