After decades of conflict, Iraq is now one of the most contaminated countries in the world. Since early January, Handicap International's weapons clearance teams have identified, collected, and destroyed more than 1,000 explosives in the governorates of Kirkuk and Diyala, areas severely affected by the war.
“We have trained several specialized teams–each containing about thirty people–to destroy explosive remnants of war in two areas of Iraq,” explains Alberto Casero Gómez-Pastrana, Handicap International’s chief of operations for mine action in Iraq.
Our teams conduct several types of operations and determine the safest way to destroy explosive devices. “For example, we do grouped disposals when destroying dozens of explosive devices in areas identified and secured in advance,” Alberto explains.
“But some explosive devices can’t be moved and have to be destroyed where they were originally placed. These situations end up being a long process because we have to destroy the devices one-by-one.”
Despite the outstanding progress our teams have made since starting operations, the village of Basheer–in the governorate of Kirkuk–is still highly contaminated. In 2015, the Islamic State captured Basheer, and six hundred families fled.
In May 2016, the army retook the village and since then, some 60 families have returned to their homes. Our teams are committed to giving the land back to the people of Iraq, and in the meantime, keep them safe in their local communities by educating both children and adults on the dangers of explosive weapons through risk education.