Unexploded ordnance (UXOs), left by Iraqi forces fighting around Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, was injuring an average of 25 people per day following the fall of the city to coalition forces on 10 April, according to an international NGO working on UXO and mine clearance in the region.
"Fifty-two people were killed in the first week but deaths and injuries have reduced significantly as UXOs are identified and destroyed," Sean Sutton of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) said from the city of Sulemaniye.
There were about 350 UXO and mine-related injuries in and around Kirkuk since the fighting began but accurate figures were very difficult to compile, Sutton added. "MAG knows of 47 deaths going unrecorded in Kirkuk. There is no death
registration system, and no morgue where people are taken. They are just buried," he said.
The majority of those injured or killed were children. "Most of the children's injuries are burns to the hands and face from
playing with UXOs," he said. "I have seen a lot of children who have lost eyes."
Many were playing with the guns, ammunition, mortar shells and fuses that they found, with some even trying to set fire to the UXOs themselves. "They find them and dismantle them, and then throw them on fires to blow them up," he said.
While the injuries were not life-threatening they were "extremely serious" he said, adding that the hospital in Kirkuk seemed to be coping much better recently with the arrival of aid supplies to the region.
The adult injuries were either from land mines, cluster bombs, from walking through former military camps or from dismantling UXOS for scrap metal, he said. MAG has removed 184,500 items of UXO around Kirkuk and the northern city of Mosul since it began work in the region in mid-April. More than 12,000 mines and booby traps of all kinds have also been cleared from the region.
MAG was conducting about 10 demolitions every day of every type of UXO, said Sutton, from guns and ammunition to missile war
heads and rocket propelled grenades. The NGO is currently concentrating its work around Mosul and Kirkuk city, and also clearing booby traps from around Halabjah. So far, twenty villages had been cleared of the traps - mortar bombs attached to trip wires, which were terrifying local people, said Sutton.
As the number of UXOs declines, the next task will be dealing with the hundreds of thousands of mines that lie buried across northern Iraq. "MAG will locate and identify the minefields and start education and awareness programmes with local communities," he added.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions