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Yemen among world’s worst for ‘contamination’ by explosives 

September 12, 2023 at 10:59 am

Landmines on September 22, 2018 [Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images]

Yemen has joined Iraq and Afghanistan as the three countries with the highest rates of contamination with landmines and other deadly explosives still littering the ground, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC’s Near and Middle East regional director, Fabrizio Carboni, was quoted yesterday by AFP as saying: “When it comes to weapon contamination, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan are the three countries most affected by this. It is really devastating and has a very important impact on people, their safety, and also their livelihood.”

War-torn Yemen, which is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, is estimated to have at least one million mines that have been planted during years of turmoil and conflict.

According to the UN-linked Civilian Impact Monitoring Project, landmines, unexploded shells and other weapons or munitions left behind during fighting have killed and injured 1,469 civilians in Yemen over the past five years.

READ: 1980s Iran-Iraq War landmines continue to threaten Iraq

“The presence of unexploded ordnance is massive,” stressed Carboni. “The contamination is so important and so widespread that you will not be able to decontaminate everything [even if the conflict ended today].”

Although fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi-allied forces has largely subsided since a UN-brokered ceasefire came into effect in April 2022, and has held even after the deal expired in October 2022, the ICRC official says that it will take decades to clear the country of explosives, depending on resources.

Following the China-brokered rapprochement between geopolitical rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, there have also been historic direct peace talks between Riyadh and the Houthi-led government in Sanaa mediated by Oman.

“This is the first time that I really have the feeling that there are convincing and concrete political options on the table and that violence is no longer the only option,” added Carboni.

Yesterday, the Saudi Press Agency reported that the kingdom’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) disarmed a total of 783 mines across various regions in Yemen during the first week of September.

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