Brussels, 20 October 2023 (TDI): The Government of Belgium reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to a world free from anti-personnel mines by allocating €1.5 million to the United Nations Mine Action Services (UNMAS) for its critical activities in Iraq and Syria on October 19, 2023.

These efforts are crucial due to the presence of landmines because of foreign involvement, the presence of ISIS, and prolonged civil conflicts. The landmines continue to pose significant threats to the safety of civilians in the region.

Iraq is the world’s most contaminated country globally due to 40 years of continuous conflict. It is noted that approximately 2,236 square kilometers of land in Iraq are recorded as contaminated areas by UNMAS.

Belgium has previously contributed €9.5 million to support demining efforts in these countries. Belgium’s Foreign Minister, Hadja Labib highlighted the ongoing challenges posed by landmines and other dangerous materials in these areas. 

These hazardous materials not only affect the lives of civilians but also hinder access to humanitarian aid, reconstruction, and stabilization efforts. Furthermore, explosive ordnance also affects civilians’ access to health and education services.

UNMAS has contributed to demining efforts in Iraq through various ways including capacity building and educational support.

UNMAS remains committed to facilitating knowledge exchange between global and local organizations, fostering sustainability, and empowering local entities.

In Syria, the UNMAS plays a vital role in coordinating efforts to clear landmines. This coordination ensures the safety of other humanitarian organizations and allows them to provide assistance where needed in the region.

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UNMAS was established in 1997 and plays a critical role in clearing mines, conducting surveys, marking, detecting, and destroying mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

In 2023 the United Nations (UN)successfully removed 457 explosive remnants and 624 improvised explosive devices from previously liberated areas in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

UNMAS also provides victim support to the people in Syria, offering medical assistance, prosthetics, rehabilitation support, and financial aid to 88,131 individuals.