The global casualty toll from landmines doubled in 2018 from a 2013 low due to conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Mali and increased use of improvised landmines set by militant groups such as Islamic State.
Representatives from affected nations, non-governmental organisations and donor countries are in Oslo this week to discuss how to achieve the stated aim of making the world free from landmines by 2025.
Landmines killed or injured 6 897 people in 2018, according to the Landmine Monitor report of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Seventy-one percent of casualties were civilians and over half were children, it said.
In 2018, most casualties were due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) set by non-state groups, the report added.
The lowest globally recorded number was set at 3 457 casualties in 2013.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said to reduce the casualty toll it was necessary to engage with non-state actors, acknowledging it was “difficult”.
“We have to take on that challenge,” Soereide said. The Nordic country is one of the top donor countries for demining, with $40 million pledged to 20 countries in 2018 and 2019. No further money will be pledged at this week’s conference.
Iraq is the world’s most landmine contaminated country, partly due to mines laid by Islamic State to defend territory it once controlled over Iraq and Syria.
Iraq was heavily contaminated as a result of the 2003 invasion by the US-led coalition, the 1991 Gulf War and the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
This increased since Islamic State’s presence and now at least 1,818 sq km is contaminated – an area bigger than London – according to a report prepared by the Mine Action Review research group.
“It was done on an industrial scale. Islamic State had production lines, they puy serial numbers on the devices,” said Portia Stratton, Iraq Country Director for MAG, a British non-governmental organisation working in northern Iraq, including Sinjar, Tel Afar and Tel Kaif and around Mosul.
“We find mine belts surrounding cities and villages and multiple rows of interlinked mine belts running across agricultural fields,” she told Reuters.
Homes in cities and villages also have landmines and IEDs placed. MAG wants to conduct demining in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city with two million inhabitants, depending on funding, Stratton added.