Mine Action Group : Partnership saves lives

March 25, 2010, Cluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons which can be dropped from the air or fired from the ground. They release numerous explosive fragments ' bomblets, or submunitions. Bomblets which fail to explode on impact pose the threat of death or injury long after conflict is over. Their presence means a lack of access to safe land, limiting agricultural development, the reconstruction of vital infrastructure, and the work of relief and development agencies.


MAG welcomed the ratification in February 2010 of the international treaty banning the use of cluster munitions. This news had even more resonance for people in Lebanon, Lao PDR and Iraq, where the lethal threat from unexploded cluster munitions continues to affect daily life in countless communities.
Cluster bombs can threaten lives and limbs long after they've been deployed: 11-year-old Abdul-Ghafar was killed and his two friends lost their legs in an accident five years after their village was bombarded.
A member of MAG's Community Liaison staff in Iraq meets with Abas, who lost his right leg in a cluster submunition accident.
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During the 2003 conflict in Iraq, the village of Bawa Mahmod, a couple of hundred kilometres north-east of Baghdad in Diyala governorate, was bombarded by cluster submunitions.
Five years later, in May 2008, the explosion of one of these bombs caused the death of 11-year-old Abdul-Ghafar and resulted in his two friends, Hamed and Abas, losing their legs.
The explosion also started a large fire which subsequently detonated several other BLU 97 cluster munitions. When firefighters began tackling it, one of them was injured by an explosion of another BLU-97.
The incidents took place on Haji Barzan's land, half of which had been covered by these deadly weapons. "The firefighters asked us to stay away from the fire," the farmer recalls. "But watching that hero fighting the fire and getting injured because of the cluster munition was like hell for us."
In September 2009, Community Liaison staff from MAG and partner non-governmental organisation Work for Peace visited Bawa Mahmod, to deliver Mine Risk Education to a number of groups of villagers.
The sessions included how to identify the various threats, with information on different types of mines and unexploded ordnance.
Two families of internally displaced people currently live on, and farm, Haji Barzan's land. However, the contamination of 50 per cent of the 125,000 square metres of orchard means that the trees cannot be used.
"After the accident in May 2008, I asked the two families not to enter that part of the land, because it is too dangerous and I didn't want another accident to take place to anybody," he explains.
Findings gathered during the Community Liaison visit to Bawa Mahmod were reported to MAG's Sulimaniyah operations base.
Following this, a MAG Mine Action Team began clearance activities to remove and destroy the dangerous items in Haji Barzan's land early in 2010.
This will directly benefit more than 500 individuals and enable the land to be used for agricultural production.

Von: March 25, 2010 By Haleema Al-Azzawi

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