Mosul’s recovery continues but the scale of the stabilisation task must be seen to be believed
Entering the West from the surprising normality of East Mosul our convoy saw nothing but devastation; no building left intact, no sign of the once bustling metropolitan centre that Mosul used to be. My eyes fixated on the lone pink pram abandoned amongst the sea of rubble, a lasting reminder of former life. I was overwhelmed with the level of destruction before me.
We were met by colleagues from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) who last year cleared more than 25,000 explosive hazards from West Mosul alone and still have over a decade of clearance estimated ahead.
UK explosive hazard experts (Optima) working with UNMAS were leading the way, searching inch by inch, navigating their way through rockets, mortar shells, grenades, you name it. Not knowing what lay waiting beneath the rubble or when the next suicide belt would join the pile which lingered on the deserted street beside them. Their commitment to the safety of returning IDPs unwavering.
It was humbling to hear first hand from the brave teams clearing critical infrastructure such as the West Mosul hospital, vital for restoring services for citizens. ‘’We see 500-pound bombs that were air dropped wedged 15 meters into the ground or sometimes even further. Just getting one of those pieces out is a matter of days and sometimes weeks” we were told by clearance teams.
The UK remains committed to supporting UNMAS in working with the international community and Iraqi authorities to deliver security and stability in Mosul and other liberated areas. The UK support ever more focused on emergency response, risk education activities and mine action capacity enhancement.
The visit highlighted the enormity of the task at hand and the day to day challenges of working in the mine action field. Our ongoing work to overcome these challenges has never been more pertinent. For me, the experience reinforced the importance of our work here in Iraq and will be a visit that stays with me for a lifetime.
The scale of the stabilisation task is one that really does need to be seen to be believed.
CSSF Security and Justice Programme Manager