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Iraq and Syria bomb clearance to 'take 40-50 years'

The UN estimates it will cost $50 million per year to clear Mosul alone [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 April, 2017

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UN Mine Action Service estimates that around $170 million per year will be needed to make Iraq and Syria safe from mines and explosive devices.
Clearing mines, improvised explosive devices and other unexploded ordnance from Iraq and Syria will take 40 to 50 years, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

"We are looking at decades of work for these countries to look like post-World War II Europe where we still find some unexploded ordnance here and there," Agnes Marcaillou, director of the UN's Mine Action Service, told a news conference marking International Mine Awareness Day.

Marcaillou said that her office is currently looking at a "ballpark figure" of between $170 million to $180 million a year to clear the areas retaken from the Islamic State group in Iraq.

This figure includes $50 million needed annually for Mosul alone.

Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition have for months been battling to wrest the city from the grip of IS, who declared its 'caliphate' Mosul in 2014.

Despite the tough road ahead, Marcaillou said that an "effort of big magnitude" could make Iraq and Syria safe from explosive devices left from conflict.

"The more funding there is available the more teams we will be able to hire, the more training we will be able to dispense to Iraqi forces and others," she said.

"The end game is to empower the government of Iraq to take care of its own problem like the French and the Germans" and the British did after World War Two.

An increase in international funding is needed if the international community wants refugees and internally displaced peoples to return to their homes, Marcaillou said.

The UN, she added, is also "very involved in looking at 3D printing of prosthetic limbs" for victims of mines, improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance.

Marcaillou said 3D printing could significantly lower costs of artificial limbs from about $18,000-$20,000 to $3,000-$5,000.

As the IS group continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria, many civilians returning to their homes are now terrorised by the murderous contraptions left behind by IS militants.

Several people have been killed due to these mines and unexploded bombs.

"Daesh [IS] has planted explosives in homes, roads, shops, schools and factories," Abdul-Karim Balaw, head of the Azaz branch of Civil Defence, told The New Arab.

"They have shown homicidal creativity, rigging various objects from rocks to household furniture."

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