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Iraq | General Situation

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Iraq is one of most the most heavily contaminated countries in the world as a result of cluster munition strikes carried out (by coalition forces) during the Gulf War of 1991 and during the 2003 invasion.

Photo: Domiz camp for Syrian refugees was initially built for 25,000 people but has now largely surpassed this number. Risk education lessons delivered at the camp are extremely important as children often pick up and play with unexploded items.

Photo: Staff working in refugee camps in northern Iraq providing risk education and gathering information on contamination inside Syria. This work is vital to help refugees to be safe in Iraq as well as when they will go home to Syria. 1991, the US, France, and the United Kingdom (UK) dropped 61,000 cluster bombs containing some 20 million submunitions on Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US and UK used nearly 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions.

Cluster munition remnants contaminate significant areas, especially in the centre and south of Iraq. Over 178 km2 of contaminated land was reported, 89% of which are in the governorates of Basra, Muthanna and Thi-Qar. It has been estimated that since 1991, up to 8,000 people have been injured or killed in Iraq by cluster munitions. One quarter of these casualties were children. Nomadic sheep herders (and their animals) are particularly at risk

of cluster munitions remnants and landmines, as they move around in dangerous areas.

Aside from addressing cluster munition contamination, Iraq has to tackle the densely mine-contaminated areas liberated from Islamic State with urgency, in order to permit the return of displaced populations.

Photo: In 2012, the Abdulhameed family lost two of their children, 9 year-old Myasar and his 8 year-old brother Abdulkarim. They were killed in an accident with an unexploded submunition while herding sheep. Accompanying brotherIssa (right) survived the accident but was hit by more than 50 fragments. One quarter of all cluster munition casualties in Iraq are children.

These photos, stories and film are from an exhibition by photographer Sean Sutton, originally commissioned by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) in collaboration with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG).

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