At least 519 children have been killed or injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance in Iraq in the past five years, UN agencies have warned.
“More than 80 per cent of children affected are boys,” the rights groups UNICEF, the world body’s children’s agency, and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said in a joint statement on Monday night.
They added that boys were “disproportionately impacted due to incidents of child labour, such as grazing animals or collecting scrap metal to sell”.
The statement said although Iraq has not “suffered from open conflicts” over past years, “the effects of explosive weapons will reverberate for years to come”.
A report by the charity Humanity & Inclusion said: “Iraq is considered one of the countries most contaminated by explosive devices in the world,” with more than 3,225 square kilometres of land contaminated with unexploded ordnance.
The material is particularly present near the borders with Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, all areas where Iraq has been involved in armed conflicts over the past four decades.
Baghdad fought a war with Iran between 1980-1988, as well as the first Gulf War triggered by the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The Iraqi military between 2014 and 2017 backed by an international coalition fought a war against the Islamic State jihadist group.
In the joint statement, UNICEF and UNMAS urged “all parties to accelerate every effort to clear existing mines and unexploded ordnance” and called on “all parties to accelerate their efforts to remove mines and explosive remnants, to strengthen victim assistance and to support children’s right to a safe, secure and protected environment”.