The Iraqi government said on Tuesday (November 14th) it has devised a new national strategy to remove mines and unexploded ordnance from the country, with a focus on areas liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
The strategy includes a new work plan extending till the year 2021.
The Ministry of Health and Environment has teamed up with the Interior, Defence and Planning Ministries to develop the strategy, Iraqi Landmine Affairs Directorate head Khalid Rashad told Diyaruna.
International partners such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will also be included in the strategy, he said.
"This plan is in line with Iraq's request to extend its participation in the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty for an additional 10 years, until 2028," he said.
"Through this joint effort, we sought to determine the magnitude of the problem of mine contamination and how to harness all technical expertise and financial capabilities to reduce it and make the country completely free of explosives," Rashad said.
Iraq suffers from a proliferation of mines, estimated at 25 million mines and unexploded ordnance dating back to the Iran-Iraq war.
The issue has been exacerbated after ISIS planted hundreds of thousands of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the areas under its control.
Those IEDs, mostly locally-made, have caused many casualties, most of whom were displaced residents returning to their areas after the militants were driven out.
"We are working hard to clear the contaminated territory of ISIS remnants," Rashad said. "We have so far removed about 200,000 IEDs and mines from large areas in Anbar and Ninawa provinces."
But the task is challenging, he added, as the contaminated areas are large and will require much work.
"Our new strategy focuses on the need to strengthen partnership and co-operation with other countries to overcome the challenge by providing expertise and technical support to our [de-mining] teams," he said.
This will help accelerate the mine removal efforts, he added.
Rashad stressed that eliminating the mine contamination is "a responsibility not only of Iraq, but also of the international community".
The strategic plan also focuses on "expanding awareness and public education to avoid the dangers of mines and providing medical services and physical and psychological rehabilitation to those injured in mine explosions", he said.