Mine charity mobilised as war in Iraq draws near

MAG, one of the world's leading mine clearing action charities, is mobilising its units in Iraq as the threat of war intensifies.
The internationally-known charity has been actively clearing mines and unexploded bombs in Iraq every day since 1992. Amid the current threat of an invasion MAG's operations in the field will increase and security will be heightened. The UK-based charity employs more than 700 Kurds in northern Iraq and provisions have been made for their safety. Despite the threat of conflict, MAG's humanitarian work in the field will continue.

Security has been stepped up in 50 key landmine areas and stock-piling food and fuel has begun. MAG's rapid response units for potentially heavily mined areas will also be assembled. The UK staff in Iraq has implemented cautionary working practices since October 2002 and their work will continue on the ground throughout the threat of conflict.

MAG's knowledge and expertise within Iraq has earned the trust and respect of those in the field. The Nobel Peace prize-winning charity was instrumental in clearing access routes and allowing safe passage for tens of thousands of Kurdish returnees following the Gulf War in 1990 and again in 1996. Its activities are also heralded by other humanitarian organisations as others can only carry out their work after MAG has identified mine-free land. More often than not MAG is the 'first in - last out' in the field for humanitarian aid.

Lou McGrath, MAG's executive director, said lessons had been learned during the Gulf War: "MAG's work is absolutely vital for the safety of all those in the field. We were there during the last war in 1990 and again in 1996 and we'll be there again if there's a war in Iraq. It's dangerous but MAG's core activity is to clear up the remnants of war so innocent victims can live in some safety despite the dangers."

As MAG mobilises its units and field staff it is appealing for money to step up its programmes. "We need money and we're appealing to trusts, foundations and multi-nationals to help MAG help the victims of war in Iraq", added McGrath. "We have operations in place but we need further funds to sustain it. The cost of war is likely to go into tens of millions and if MAG had just a small percentage of that it would have a dramatic affect of our humanitarian aid capabilities."