BAGHDAD: Landmines and unexploded ordinance are inhibiting development in Iraq, one of countries worst-affected by such explosives worldwide, a United Nations factsheet released on Wednesday said.
"Years of war and internal conflict have left a dangerous legacy of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). The widespread contamination is one of the largest in the world," the Iraq factsheet said.
"Contaminated sites cover an estimated 1,730 square kilometers (667 square miles) and affect around 1.6 million people in over 1,600 communities," it added.
In addition to posing a deadly threat, the prevalence of landmines and UXO also harms development in Iraq.
"Landmine contamination is particularly affecting major oil infrastructure projects," and "delays the oil sector reconstruction and production," according to the factsheet.
A survey by the U.N. Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit found that per-capita income, educational achievement, food security and access to key services are all adversely affected by mine contamination.
"Impacted communities in Iraq are generally small, rural and dependent on agriculture. Ninety percent of the contaminated land is agricultural, inhibiting communities' ability to develop sustainable livelihoods," the factsheet said.
"Access to ... agricultural water sources has also been cut off. In the south, blockage of high-value irrigation cropland is of particular concern. In the north, contamination often blocks land used for collecting firewood and medicinal plants."
Over the past three decades, Iraq has been disfigured by conflict.
Now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein launched a war against Iran in 1980 that lasted until 1988, and invaded Kuwait in 1990, only to be forced out by an international coalition the following year.
And in 2003, a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country, deposing Saddam but unleashing a violent insurgency and a bloody sectarian war.