DDG to Open Office in East MosulThe ongoing operation currently being undertaken by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), to push Islamic State (IS) out of the major Northern Iraqi city of Mosul is taking a heavy toll on residents there, with up to 300,000 people displaced from their homes according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). As part of the response to this urgent humanitarian crisis, DDG has been delivering Mine Risk Education to this vulnerable population, with classroom lessons designed to give vital and potentially lifesaving knowledge about the dangers of mines, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s).
According to Noe Falk Nielsen, Mine Risk Education Programme Manager for Iraq, areas around Mosul where the ISF and IS forces were involved in heavy fighting are littered with dangerously unstable ERW. When the guns and artillery finally fall silent and IS have been cleared from the area, people naturally look to leave the overcrowded displacement camps and return to their homes. Noe describes a class of 8 and 9 year olds in a small village north of Mosul that were presented with pictures of ERW and asked if they had seen any in the area. The children all said yes with some even having interacted with the items. MRE gives these children and their parents the necessary knowledge to live and work as safely as possible in contaminated areas, helping them to adopt safer behaviors when they encounter these dangerous items. Teaching people not to pick up unexploded ordnance (UXO) may seem quite a basic and obvious undertaking; however it is not only ERW that pose dangers. IS has been known to place IED’s and booby traps that deliberately target returnees, even using props like children’s toys to disguise them. All necessary precautions must be taken by those returning to homes in areas formerly under occupation by IS, DDG helps by equipping people with as much knowledge as possible about the potential dangers that await.
Photo: Noe Falk Nielsen
Displacement camps around the city continue to swell with numbers as the battle for Mosul rages. The ISF, with support from international forces currently have the city surrounded and it appears that full liberation from IS is just a matter of time. Before the inevitable return of hundreds of thousands of displaced people to hazardous contaminated areas, it is important for DDG to reach as many as possible with MRE. We continue to visit camps and villages throughout the region, delivering this vital service to a population who have already suffered from the ravages of war and the brutal occupation of IS in their city. At the time of writing DDG has just been awarded a contract with UNICEF to deliver MRE at newly opened schools in liberated East Mosul, with the opening of a new office there making us the first mine action group to have a permanent base in the city. This will allow easier access to MRE for returnees, and also improve the reporting and mapping processes. Gathering data from citizens about the whereabouts and levels of ERW contamination paves the way for eventual clearance activities, which DDG will also be involved in.
The conflict in northern Iraq continues and will for some time, but when the ordeal of IS occupation is finally over for the people of Mosul, DDG aims to make the process of homecoming and rebuilding as safe and secure as possible.
Photo: Noe Falk Nielsen