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Like thousands of other Iraqis displaced by the recent violence, Mobhij fled Islamic State attacks only to face a new threat...
Mobhij Behnam is currently sheltering with his family – and more than 4,500 other Christian families who’ve fled brutal Islamic State attacks in the Mosul area – in Ankawa, a suburb of Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Having escaped the violence, the new arrivals face a new threat: Iraqi Kurdistan remains one of the areas of the world that is most affected by landmines, cluster bombs and other explosive remnants of war (ERW).
Mobhij, a mechanic from Karmlis village, knows the danger only too well, having stepped on a landmine during the Iraq-Iran war: "I didn't know what mines were or what to do if I saw one,” he said. “I lost part of my foot because of these weapons."
In some ways, Mobhij was lucky. Even landmines with a comparatively small amount of explosives result in injuries that frequently lead to the loss of a lower limb.
The 48-year-old is one of more than 14,000 Iraqis from various towns and villages near Mosul to have received MAG’s risk education – which aims to prevent death and injury from landmines and ERW, by raising awareness of the threats and promoting safer behaviour.
"I wish I had known this before," he said. “I feel very relieved now that my family and I know about the dangers and what to do if we see these weapons again."
Emergency safety information has reached a further 42,000 people through local media and printed materials.
This work is crucial. In an assessment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) that MAG carried out in June 2014:
• 97 per cent of those surveyed had not received or had no access to landmine/ERW risk education, or any type of safety and awareness information;
• 32 per cent of IDPs could not distinguish safe areas from hazardous areas;
• 57 per cent did not know what type of warning signs were used to signify dangerous areas.
It is easy, then, to see how people displaced by the Islamic State attacks are particularly vulnerable.
Landmines and ERW are indiscriminate killers. They don’t obey peace accords or ceasefire agreements. They can lie in the ground for decades after a conflict is over, killing or maiming civilians as they try to re-establish their lives and livelihoods.
Emergency response in Iraq
Since August 2013, the population of Iraqi Kurdistan has increased by over one million people, of whom 220,000 are Syrian refugees and the rest IDPs from different parts of Iraq, such as Mosul, Anbar, Tikrit and Diyala.
Our Community Liaison teams in Iraq have been working since June 2014 to deliver risk education to IDPs in Erbil, Dohuk, Diyala, Sulimaniyah and Kirkuk Governorates, keeping them safe from landmines and ERW.
MAG has also been helping Syrian refugees living in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2012, with more than 6,000 risk education sessions given so far to around 90,000 refugees.
Emergency safety and awareness information has reached a further 250,000 refugees via traditional media and social media.
As part of this work, we have recruited, trained and deployed people from the Syrian refugee community to provide information and education to improve the safety of fellow refugees in living camps in northern Iraq.
MAG has also had mine action teams on the ground, clearing landmines and ERW in and around refugee camps in the Erbil, Sulimaniyah and Dohuk Governorates.
To find out more about MAG please go to www.maginternational.org.