By the end of 2017, the war against the Islamic State was officially over; the jihadist group had been driven out of all the areas it had occupied since 2014. For the Iraqi population however, this did not imply an immediate return to anormal life.
Many villages were, and still are, littered with homemade explosive devices laid by ISIS on roads, in fields, homes and schools. Inside buildings, these so-called “improvised mines” are sometimes hidden under furniture, in televisions or refrigerators, in doorways and windows. In addition to these deadly devices, dangerous items of unexploded or abandoned explosive ordnance are scattered across the former battlefields.
To enable people to return to their homes, cultivate their land and to send their children to school safely, it is essential to clear these contaminated villages and agricultural areas as soon as possible.
“The most important thing now is to clear the ground so that our children can move around freely.”
FSD deminers’ efforts focus on eliminating improvised mines. These homemade explosive devices made by ISIS with everyday objects and products are still present in Iraq in considerable quantities.
Each neutralized device potentially represents a life saved. Nearly 15,000 devices have been destroyed to date and an area equivalent to 1,500 football pitches has been cleared by FSD’s team.
FSD also utilises a number of modified earthmoving machines to assist in the clearance of explosive hazards and the removal of rubble from houses and other buildings.
Explosive ordnance risk education
Mine clearance is long and arduous work. Until the deminers have cleared the ground for good, people have no other choice but to “live together” with the explosive devices.
FSD therefore conducts risk awareness sessions in villages that are still contaminated. The teams teach the inhabitants how to recognize improvised mines and unexploded ordnance, and how to stay safe around them.
In 2020, FSD entered into a two-year project to train and develop a local NGO, in coordination with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
FSD will assist the staff from the Shareteah Humanitarian Organisation to develop the technical and administrative skills necessary to function as a fully-fledged Mine Action NGO. Ultimately, the objective is that international organizations can withdraw and that the demining of Iraq can be carried out by national actors.
FSD in Iraq
This operation is delicate for the deminers: explosive devices are present in considerable quantities, and their improvised nature can make neutralization challenging.
Each device encountered is potentially different from the others and requires special attention. For example, some may include hidden or multiple activation switches.
The environment presents additional challenges for deminers as well as for FSD’s risk education experts and survey teams who roam the near the clearance teams. Accommodation and offices that can house FSD teams near minefields are scarce or very rudimentary due to the level of destruction caused by the fighting. The temperature regularly climbs above 45 degrees Celsius for a good half of the year, rendering the soils so dry and hard that it is difficult to uncover explosive devices that become baked in the soil. The security situation also remains extremely fragile.
centimetre by centimetre
In 2020, our deminers cleared 3.2 km² , an area equivalent to the City of London. This work requires constant concentration despite the sometimes extreme working conditions.
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Our humanitarian programs focus on four main areas.
FSD locates and clears mines and unexploded ordnance, provides explosive ordnance risk education and assists survivors of accidental explosions.
recovery & stability
FSD collaborates on research & innovation projects aiming to use new technologies, such as drones, in mine action.