Humanitarian Mine Action and Peace Building Efforts in Iraq's Southern Governorates

In the southern governorates of Iraq, explosive remnants of war continue to pose a serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of the people.

In response, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Spirit of Soccer (SoS) and the Danish Refugee Council's Humanitarian Disarmament and Peacebuilding (HDP) Teams are working to provide Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) to children, youth, shepherds, and farmers. Through interactive sessions including sports and athletic activities, these organizations aim to raise awareness of the dangers of explosive remnants of war and promote safe behavior among those most at risk. These efforts are helping to bring life and hope to communities affected by decades of conflict. 

Spirit of Soccer Delivers Explosive Ordnance Risk Education to Children and Youth in Thi-Qar Governorate of Iraq

Thi-Qar is a southern Iraqi governorate with over 2 million inhabitants*. It is known for its ancient landmarks, such as the Ziggurat Temple of Ur, and the Mesopotamian Wetlands, a popular historical and natural tourist spot. The people of the city rely on farming, livestock, labor, and public sector jobs to sustain themselves. However, due to its location near Basra Governorate in the southernmost part of the country, Thi-Qar became a strategic location for Iraqi military bases during the two Gulf Wars against Iran and Kuwait (1980-1991). As a result, the governorate is now riddled with unexploded ordnance (UXO) from heavy airstrikes, bombings, and abandoned ammunition left behind by the Iraqi army.  

In response to the priority needs for communities surrounded by explosive ordnance (EO) threats in Thi-Qar and other Southern governorates of Iraq, many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) collaborate with local government support to launch EORE campaigns through sessions targeting different societal groups. Spirit of Soccer is one of the NGOs which has been operating in multiple regions of Iraq since 2009 to deliver lifesaving messages through football matches. 

“Through our work, we use the game of soccer as a medium to reach Iraqi children and youth to inform them about the dangers imposed by explosive remnants of war (ERW), as well as measures that they can take to mitigate the threat of these devices and how to report them to responsible authorities in the country.”

Abbas FadhilEORE Team Leader working with Spirit of Soccer

“I wanted to examine my students' awareness of deadly remnants of war and understand what they would do if they encountered any suspicious object. So, I placed a pile of red colored stones as a marker near the school and waited for them to inform me or any other teacher about it. And they did! I was amazed by how young children’s attention can be impacted through words and lessons shared during a football game.
SoS’ approach in raising awareness is smart because it engages the players in a fun education session that is not easy to forget. This is because during games both our brain and bodies stay active and alert. They target young children in schools and youth by hosting champions in local play yards, which has a greater impact on larger groups, including the audience." 

Aqeel AbdulkareemPhysical Education School Teacher

With large scale explosive remnants of war contamination continuing to affect communities across Iraq, EORE remains a priority for SOS and other humanitarian mine action NGOs to keep people safe and promote a prosperous environment for the next generations.  

Awareness messages are published in copybooks and and distributed to children and youth by SOS teams.

The work of Spirit of Soccer’s Explosive Ordnance Risk Education teams would not have been achievable without the generous support of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA). 

Danish Refugee Council’s Humanitarian Disarmament and Peace Building teams pave the way for families’ return and economic prosperity in Basra Governorate

Basra is the largest and most economically important governorates in Southern Iraq. It is recognized as an economic capital of the country for its multiple petroleum reservoirs, harbors, vast agricultural lands, as well as vital infrastructure and governmental facilities, with an estimated population of 1.4 million.      

Bordering Iran and Kuwait, and overlooking the Shatt Al-Arab River, Basra was a target of several conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Gulf War (1990 -1991) and the Battle of Basra (2003). As a result, Basra remains heavily contaminated with ERW, including landmines, unexploded ordnance, and cluster munitions, which continue to pose a threat to the lives of people residing across the governorate.  

The HDP conducts explosive ordnance survey, clearance and risk education operations within Basra and other governorates of Southern Iraq to remove and mitigate the dangers of contamination.  

The region's significant contamination levels have created a pressing demand for explosive remnants of war clearance. Since 2003, international and local organizations have collaborated with the local government to respond to the emergency. 

Clearance and risk education are crucial efforts to continue saving lives and rebuilding livelihoods for current and future generations. Despite ongoing humanitarian mine action operations resulting in safer land for communities in different parts of Basra, much-needed assistance efforts are still required. 

The work of HDP’s clearance and explosive ordnance risk education teams would not have been possible without the generous support of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) 

All interviews were conducted courtesy of iMMAP through its Third-Party Monitoring of PM/WRA implementing partners’ humanitarian mine action operations in Iraq.