On The Ground: Mines Advisory Group

Sarah Speight

Scheme: Mine Action

Funding: Average of $5m (£2.8m) each year for the past 10 years from the EC and the Dutch, Swedish, German, US and UK governments

Objectives: To help build futures for populations affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance

Since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, landmine charity MAG has cleared more than 1 million mines and bombs.

In the month following the end of the war last year, there were an estimated 500 deaths and injuries from landmines and unexploded ordnance.

The casualties mostly included children playing with ordnance left by retreating Iraqi forces, adults trying to retrieve valuable metals for their scrap value, and people triggering landmines.

Now, the death and injury toll is down to an average of 20 casualties a month.

Salaam Mohammed Amin, MAG's technical field manager for the Sulaymaniyah region of Iraq, said: "We've been working flat-out to try to remove the danger as quickly as possible. So many civilians were being hurt daily after the war."

Anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines, cluster bomblets, rockets and other unexploded ordnance have been safely destroyed in areas of northern Iraq by MAG's 800 staff. The charity was one of the only NGOs to work in Iraq during the war.

The UK-based organisation, which is co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, has been clearing landmines and unexploded ordnance in northern Iraq since 1992, after the first Gulf War ended in 1991.

Each mine action team comprises 14 staff, including eight technicians, community liaison officers and a medic.

MAG works with local communities to highlight danger-areas. The charity provides mine education and awareness activities to help communities understand and deal with the daily risks to life and limb.

Amin explains, however, that the quantity of mines cleared is not MAG's only objective: "We work on a priority system - we clear land that is of the highest benefit for communities.

"Every single item cleared is a life or limb saved, so 1 million items is a huge humanitarian achievement."

The charity, which is the only de-mining NGO to work in Iraq non-stop since 1992, is now extending its programme to other areas of the country.

MAG, which was supported by Princess Diana, currently runs other projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Angola, Vietnam, Laos and Lebanon.

Amin remains hopeful for mine clearance in his own country. "Accidents caused by mines and unexploded ordnance have been reduced, but we need to do so much more.

"If we can continue the pace, and if funding allows it, my people can hope for a better Iraq in the future."

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