France has been supporting Iraqi and Syrian cities liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) by allocating aid to the removal of mines and the rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged during the battles with ISIS.
The French government has allocated 500,000 euros ($590,000) to explosive hazard management in support of humanitarian and stabilisation efforts in Iraq, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said in a July 25th statement.
With this first contribution from France, UNMAS will increase capacity to conduct survey and clearance of liberated areas suspected to be affected by explosive hazards in Anbar, Ninawa, Kirkuk, Salaheddine and Diyala.
The presence of explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in areas liberated from ISIS, will continue to impede security and stability efforts until they are cleared and rendered safe, the statement said.
In collaboration with the Directorate of Mine Action (DMA), risk education will also be provided to those living in and returning to liberated areas known to be contaminated by explosive hazards, it said.
This first contribution from France "will make a significant difference", said Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager.
"It will not only support UNMAS efforts to address the threat posed by explosive hazards, but also contribute to the safe and dignified return of displaced communities," he said.
France 'committed to supporting Ninawa'
French officials have recently made several visits to liberated Iraqi cities, including a July 8th visit to Mosul during which the French delegation discussed with local officials ways to improve public services in the city.
"The French have demonstrated their commitment to do everything within their power for our province in order to remove obstacles impeding reconstruction," said Duraid Hikmat, advisor to the governor of Ninawa.
France has allocated funds to remove explosives and rehabilitate damaged service sector buildings, most of which are located in western Mosul, particularly in the Old City, he told Diyaruna.
"We are very appreciative of this generosity and look forward to more positive co-operation with them," he said.
France is currently working with Ninawa's local government and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to rehabilitate Mosul University at a cost of 2.5 million euros ($3 million).
It is also providing technical and professional expertise to Iraqi medical facilities, particularly with regard to cancer treatment and psychiatric rehabilitation for victims of terrorism.
France will reconstruct Mosul's airport within 13 months, pending an agreement with the Iraqi government, Ninawa Governor Abdul Qadir Sinjar announced on July 8th.
ISIS has left behind a dark legacy of destruction that affected most public sectors, directly impacting people’s lives as well as their homes and private property, said Ninawa provincial council services committee member Hosam Eddin al-Abbar.
"Rebuilding our cities is not an easy task," he told Diyaruna, "but we might still be able to succeed with the right help from the rest of the world".
"France has helped us through its air force, reconnaissance missions and artillery to retake our territory from the grip of ISIS," he said, noting that this support was a "key factor in achieving victory".
French support did not end with the end of the war, said al-Abbar, as the country has been actively training Iraqi forces and rehabilitating damaged public services.
"We aspire to deepen this joint partnership," he added.
France supports Syrian civilians
Across the border in Syria, France also has been hard at work ensuring the safety of residents in cities liberated from ISIS.
French forces have aided in the removal of 5,000 mines and 35,000 unexploded ordnance from 18 villages in the vicinity of al-Raqa, al-Hasakeh and Deir Ezzor, the French Foreign Ministry said on July 24th.
"Support also has reached 10 healthcare centres, mobile clinics and training programmes targeting workers in the medical profession," the ministry said.
France continues to provide humanitarian aid to Syrians, and on July 23rd delivered 50 tonnes of aid to the UN to be distributed to civilians.
This assistance is part of 50 million euros ($58 million) in urgent aid pledged by France for Syria in April.
"No Syrians who managed to escape the terrorism of ISIS will deny the positive role of France and its efforts to revive their cities," Madina Moussa, a Syrian activist living in Iraq's Kurdish region, told Diyaruna.
There is clear evidence of the work France is doing to address the danger of explosives and remnants of war, she said, noting that France has helped "thousands of civilians to return home and resettle in their neighbourhoods".
"As for relief activities, France has taken its responsibilities seriously in terms of providing food, medicine and humanitarian supplies to the civilian population and has helped rebuild our cities," she said.