Iraqi NGOs working in the field of landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance have welcomed the ratification of an international convention banning the use of cluster bombs.
“It is a big victory for humanity,” said Ali Jawad Kati, who heads the Baghdad-based NGO Aysen, which raises awareness about mine risks. “This ratification will protect humanity from being killed by these bombs.”
He said millions of bomblets dispersed by cluster bombs were still scattered across the country as a result of the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion.
In Baghdad 331 areas are affected by cluster bomb debris, mostly from the 2003 war, Kati said.
South of Baghdad, the most affected provinces are Muthana, Basra, Najaf and Maysan, where cluster bomb debris dated mostly from the 1991 Gulf War, he said.
“Banning the use of these lethal weapons is more important than banning landmines because minefields are well defined on maps while cluster bombs are scattered in many places,” said Zahim Mutar, head of Baghdad-based NGO Iraqi Mine and UXO Clearance Organization.
What makes cluster bombs so dangerous is that their bomblets appear in different shapes and forms and lie dormant for years. Children are often fatally wounded after being attracted to them by their small size and bright colours, he said.
“As a specialist in this field who knows very well the impact of these lethal weapons, not only in Iraq, I’m happy with this ratification,” he added.
Both Kati and Mutar said cooperation between local and foreign NGOs and the Iraqi government on landmine and UXO clearance was good, but they appealed for more funds and mine clearance training for local NGOs.
According to the Environment Ministry, there are some 25 million landmines in Iraq, and more than 25 million UXO pieces, including cluster bomb debris.
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