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Need for Clearance of Landmines and Other Explosive Hazards Remains Acute

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - In this still image made from video taken Sept. 7, 2015, provided by the Syrian Center for Demining and Rehabilitation, a volunteer deminer takes a landmine from the ground in Daraa, Syria.

The United Nations Mine Action Service is appealing for more than half-a-billion dollars, a 50 percent increase from last year's appeal, to clear landmines and other explosive hazards in 22 countries and territories.

Activists still are advocating for a mine-free world by 2025. However, that prospect appears to be dimming as mine-clearance work in places such as Afghanistan is slowing due to lack of money, and new areas where explosive hazards are appearing are increasing.

This year, the U.N. Mine Action Service — or UNMASS — celebrates its 20th anniversary and the adoption of the convention banning the use, stockpiling, production and destruction of anti-personnel mines.

Money from the appeal will fund more than 200 projects in countries contaminated by landmines, unexploded cluster munitions, rockets and improvised explosive devices across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

The director of UNMASS, Agnes Marcaillou, says Iraq is one of the agency's biggest operations and $50 million will be needed to carry out work there. She tells VOA that de-miners have begun assessing the situation in the Iraqi city of Mosul, although weapons clearance operations will not go ahead until the conflict has abated and it is safe to begin.

Besides Iraq, the highest funding requirements include the active zones of Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. In addition, Marcaillou says UNMASS needs money to clear mines and other explosive hazards in countries with extensive residual contamination. These include Cambodia and Laos.

She says successful ongoing programs are occurring in Mali, Somalia and Palestine.

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