Casualties and Victim Assistance

Last updated: 30 January 2017

Action points based on findings

  • Further develop a sustainable mechanism to collect information on ongoing mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties and their needs in southern and central regions of the Republic of Iraq. It is certain that there were many more casualties in Iraq than those that are identified.
  • Increase participation of survivors and their representative organizations in the planning and coordination of victim assistance and disability issues throughout all of Iraq.
  • Ensure equal access to all services and benefits for both male and female mine/ERW survivors.

Victim assistance commitments

Iraq is responsible for significant numbers of landmine survivors, cluster munition victims, and survivors of other ERW who are in need. Iraq has made commitments to provide victim assistance through the Mine Ban Treaty and has victim assistance obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Iraq acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 20 March 2013.


Casualties Overview

All known casualties by end 2015

Many thousands; 30,495 confirmed

Casualties in 2015

58 (2014: 63)

2015 casualties by outcome

3 killed; 55 injured (2014: 28 killed; 35 injured)

2015 casualties by device type

Antipersonnel mine 43; ERW 15


Details and trends

In 2015, the Monitor identified 58 mine/ERW casualties in Iraq. The majority of these (32) occurred in central and southern Iraq and were recorded by the data collection mechanism of the Directorate of Mine Action (DMA); the other 26 occurred in the Iraqi Kurdistan region in northern Iraq (Kurdistan).

It is certain that there were many more mine/ERW casualties in Iraq that were not identified. This is due to a combination of factors, including the capacity of the DMA’s casualty data collection mechanism, which was limited by increased conflict. Media coverage of casualties is also far from comprehensive in Iraq. The Monitor has requested disaggregated data on improvised explosive device (IED) casualties from relevant UN agencies, mine action centers, and iMMAP.

Due to ongoing conflict in Iraq, the number of mine/ERW casualties continued to be significantly under-recorded. In south and central Iraq, data for 2015 casualties were not disaggregated due to the difficulties caused by continuing military operations against the so-called Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) preventing mine action casualty data recording coordination with relevant authorities in order to classify and complete the data.[1]

Although only 58 mine/ERW casualties were recorded in Iraq, as in past years, the number is thought to be much higher. A complete lack of disaggregation between command-detonated IEDs, including emplaced, body-borne, and vehicle-borne devices, and presumably improvised landmines (also called victim-activated IEDs), meant that the true number of mine casualties remained obscured in Iraq.[2] According to a UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) report, all types of IEDs collectively were reported to have caused 7,086 civilian casualties (1,717 killed and 5,369 injured) in Iraq during the period 1 May to 31 October 2015, but none of these casualties are included in Monitor reporting because they are not disaggregated by IED type.[3]

Similarly, iMMAP (an independent organization once part of the former Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation’s Information Management and Mine Action Programs) reported that IEDs killed 7,525 and injured 12,751 from January 2014 to January 2016, but improvised landmines were not disaggregated from other IED types in the data.[4]

The total number of casualties in Iraq remained unknown, though it was known that there were many thousands. By the end of 2015, 31,618 casualties were confirmed.[5]

Cluster munition casualties

By the end of 2015, 3,019 casualties from cluster munitions were recorded. Of these casualties, 388 occurred during strikes (128 killed; 260 injured).[6] Iraq’s survey of mine/ERW victims had identified 880 victims of cluster munitions (148 killed; 732 injured) in five provinces as of 31 March 2014.[7] Due to the level of contamination, it has been estimated that there have been between 5,500 and 8,000 casualties from cluster munitions since 1991 (including casualties that occurred during cluster munition strikes) and that one quarter of these casualties were children.[8]

Victim Assistance

The total number of mine/ERW survivors in Iraq is estimated to be 48,000–68,000.[9] There were 15,173 survivors identified as of March 2013; 12,471 in central and southern Iraq and 2,702 in Kurdistan.[10]

Victim assistance during the Cartagena Action Plan 2010–2014 and Vientiane Action Plan 2011–2015

Many health and rehabilitation centers rebuilt after the 1991 war were then once again damaged or destroyed with the invasion by the United States (US)-led coalition in March 2003 and the related period of civil unrest. Continued armed violence prevented the rebuilding of services critical to survivors and contributed to the emigration of some 75% of qualified medical personnel; by 2008, healthcare had deteriorated and was considered to be in its worst shape in many years prior to the Cartagena Action Plan period.

The volatile security situation in many areas continued to prevent many survivors in southern and central Iraq from having access to needed services. Persistent efforts by international organizations, international and national NGOs, and government ministries (especially the Ministry of Health) sustained the limited advances achieved since 2009 in regards to medical care and physical rehabilitation. In 2012, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs began a program to link persons with disabilities with employment.

The first national victim assistance meeting was held in 2010. Iraq had no victim assistance plan throughout the period. In 2011, the second annual national victim assistance meeting resulted in a set of recommendations for improving victim assistance, but no further steps were taken to develop the recommendations into a plan or to monitor their implementation.

The situation for survivors in Kurdistan has been significantly better than in the rest of Iraq. Victim assistance services were coordinated by the two mine action authorities previously operating in the Kurdistan region, together with the regional Ministry of Health: the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Authority (IKMAA) and the General Directorate for Mine Action (GDMA), which had merged into the IKMAA by 2012. Available services have been insufficient to address the needs of the many thousands of survivors in the Kurdistan region, a situation that has been exacerbated by the arrival of survivors from the south starting in 2009, as well as the influx of Syrian refugees beginning in 2012. In 2013, the national healthcare budget increased and the Iraqi and Kurdistan Ministries of Health assumed greater responsibility for the management and financing of physical rehabilitation. However, in 2014, the Iraqi High Commissioner for Human Rights (IHCHR) noted the “continued suffering” of persons with disabilities, particularly due to a lack of institutional infrastructure and a lack of rehabilitation programs as well as of access to health and employment opportunities. The IHCHR reported an increase in the number of persons with disabilities due to terrorist attacks and the “failure to allocate a special budget to help cover those needs.”[11]

Victim assistance in 2015 

Economic and political crises in Iraq hampered the delivery of medical and socioeconomic services, complicating the access for persons with disabilities and increasing their vulnerability, as well as that of the general population throughout the country. While Iraq suffered from a financial crisis, the focus of donors and international NGOs has been on the massive needs of internally displaced persons. This has diverted financial support away from victim assistance and minimized the scale of service provision to mine/ERW survivors across the country.

There is a need to ensure that programs supporting persons with disabilities who acquired impairment as a result of armed conflict are fully in line with the CRPD. In 2016, key UN agencies recommended that the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to visit Iraq, taking into account the standing invitation that the government of Iraq issued to all.[12] In 2015, a survivor’s representative from Iraq also expressed an interest in a visit by the Special Rapporteur.

Assessing victim assistance needs

No national needs assessments were reported.

In south and central Iraq, the DMA continued to conduct its ongoing mine victim survey.

UNAMI and OHCHR recommended that Iraq establish a system of data collection and analysis for persons with disabilities, disaggregated by age and sex, and respectful of privacy and confidentiality standards. They also suggested that Iraq include the Washington Group on Disability Statistics Short Set of Questions.[13]

Handicap International (HI) assessed the needs of persons with disabilities, including mine/ERW survivors, as part of its victim assistance activities, which included information about the person and their environment for technical rehabilitation and psychosocial assessment in order to provide appropriate services and referrals. HI’s survey also identified the impact on members of the beneficiaries’ families. In 2015, 12% of HI beneficiaries were survivors.[14]

Victim assistance coordination[15]

Government coordinating body/focal point

DMA at the national level, with limited capacity; IKMAA in Iraqi Kurdistan

Coordinating mechanism

Ad hoc coordination by DMA; disability coordination in Kurdistan; technical support from UNDP


Annual workplans


In October 2016, UNMAS held a three-week Risk Education and Victim Assistance Management training course for 15 senior staff from the IKMAA. The course, supported by Japan, included planning, implementing, and monitoring a victim assistance program in line with international standards. 

In 2014 and 2015, no victim assistance coordination meetings were held for central and southern Iraq. There were no regular victim assistance coordination meetings in the Kurdistan region. The situation of persons with disabilities is raised in the Health and Protection clusters and working groups. HI regularly gather actors involved in services for persons with disabilities through its development project and in December 2015 organized a multi-stakeholder meeting in Erbil.[16]

Iraq did not provide any updates on progress and challenges for victim assistance at the Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference in September 2015, but did make a statement at the Sixth Meeting of States Parties in September 2016. Iraq provided an update on victim assistance at the Mine Ban Treaty Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in December 2015, the intersessional meetings in Geneva in June 2016, and the Fifteenth Meeting of States Parties in Santiago, Chile in 2016. Iraq reported casualty data and information about victim assistance services provided in central and southern Iraq and in Kurdistan, through form J of its Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 report and form H of its Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 report for 2015.[17]

Inclusion and participation in victim assistance

Mine survivors participated in the two victim assistance meetings held in central and southern Iraq through the Iraqi Alliance for Disability (IADO).[18] In 2015, a mine survivor—who is a disability rights leader and head of IADO—participated on the delegation of Iraq to the Mine Ban Treaty intersessional meetings in Geneva in June.

There was a need to include persons with disabilities in decision making processes, “with a view to creating a conducive environment for their meaningful participation in society as dynamic, creative and effective agents of change.”[19]

Service accessibility and effectiveness

Victim assistance activities

Name of organization

Type of organization

Type of activity



Referrals for health and rehabilitation; economic and social inclusion, provided land and livelihood loans; assistance in social inclusion through marriage ceremonies

Ministry of Health


Emergency and continuing medical care; management of 14 physical rehabilitation centers with accommodations; training of rehabilitation technicians

Ministry of Defense


Management of one physical rehabilitation center in Baghdad

Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA)


Job training and placement for persons with disabilities

Ministry of Health, Kurdistan Regional Government


Emergency and continuing medical care; management of seven physical rehabilitation centers

Center for Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Limbs in Dohuk

National NGO

Physical rehabilitation; psychosocial support; and economic inclusion

Diana Orthopedic Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Center

National NGO

Physical rehabilitation; psychosocial support; and economic inclusion

Iraqi Alliance for Disability

National disability association

Advocacy and material support for persons with disabilities

Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS)

National society

Emergency medical care; physical rehabilitation through management of center in Mosul; psychological support; and economic inclusion program


International NGO

Physical rehabilitation and socio-economic reintegration, including vocational training; renovations to homes for accessibility in Sulaymaniyah

Handicap International (HI)

International NGO

Support access to rehabilitation for persons with disabilities in Kurdistan region; support for local disabled persons’ organizations and for disability information points


International organization

Emergency medical services; support and renovation of health centers; support through training and materials at 13 rehabilitation centers; management of rehabilitation center in Erbil; transport support to most vulnerable patients; income-generating projects in Erbil and Baghdad; focus on female breadwinners

World Health Organization (WHO)

International organization

Strengthen emergency medical response, including psychological, physical, and social rehabilitation in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk


Emergency and continuing medical care

At the end of 2015, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that “Iraq’s failing health system is struggling to meet the needs of its people while lack of sanitation, overcrowding in some areas, malnutrition and water contamination are contributing to the spread of disease.”[20] Although some healthcare services for persons with disabilities were available in Iraq, such services appeared to have decreased over time. Service providers were mostly located in larger urban centers, with beneficiaries having to travel long distances and pay for transportation.[21] Challenges included severely reduced supplies as well as reduced staff capacities as a result of salary reductions due to the economic crisis.[22]

The ICRC continued to strengthen the emergency response capacity of hospitals in violence-prone areas—such as Kirkuk and around Mosul in 2015. Heavily conflict-affected areas received specific additional support, including in Anbar province, which received 120 tons of medical supplies through the central health ministry and logistical support; repairs were made to one hospital to restore its water and electricity in Fallujah city, which was controlled by armed groups.[23]

Physical rehabilitation, including prosthetics

Within Kurdistan, access to appropriate rehabilitation services was significantly better than in the rest of Iraq and increased training for rehabilitation professionals was believed to have increased the quality of care.[24]

More than 36,350 persons with disabilities, including 12,340 amputees, received physiotherapy and other services at nine state-run and one ICRC-managed physical rehabilitation centers in 2015. The state-run centers maintained or enhanced their services with ICRC-provided support and suppliesAuthorities were encouraged to develop long-term strategies to ensure the welfare of persons with disabilities. In 2015, centers provided 3,197 prostheses in total, including 744 for mine/ERW survivors.[25] That was a slight decrease from 2014, when 880 prostheses were provided for mine/ERW survivors from a total of 3,098.[26]

In 2015, with HI support, IADO began distributing assistive devices and providing physiotherapy for internally displaced persons in camps in Baghdad.[27] Disability Information Points, managed by local DPOs in each of the three governorates of the Kurdistan region, continued to provide information about available services, with the support of HI.[28]

Economic and social inclusion and psychological support

Economic inclusion activities continued to be carried out on a limited basis in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdistan region as well as Kirkuk seriously lacked vocational training opportunities for persons with disabilities including survivors. Additional vocational training was needed to help fill the gap faced by persons with disabilities who often have had only limited access to education. Furthermore, during the conflict, some institutions providing economic inclusion ceased to operate or exist and had not been reopened.[29]

The DMA referred mine/ERW victims (both survivors and family members of people killed by mines/ERW), along with other victims of armed conflict, for the provision of untaxed livelihood loans, free land, and adapted cars, and financed group marriages for mine/ERW victims (identified through the mine/ERW survey).[30] Also, as part of its program to support income-generating activities, thousands of female heads-of-households whose spouses were victims of conflict (including victims of landmines/ERW) continued to receive assistance from the ICRC to overcome government obstacles preventing women from registering for benefits and support for income-generating activities.[31]

Some patients from ICRC-supported rehabilitation centers received livelihood support and sports events were organized with local partners.[32]

While some hospitals had some capacity to provide psychological support to mine/ERW survivors immediately following a traumatic incident, Iraq lacked sufficiently-trained professionals to provide appropriate psychological support to mine survivors. Particularly since the conflict increased in 2015, the availability of psychological support and follow-up trauma care in Iraq, including for internally displaced persons, has been inadequate to meet needs.[33] A review of the situation for persons with disabilities in 2016 recommended that the state expand and improve specialized healthcare and psychosocial support.[34]

HI provided mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services. Provision of MHPSS was one of the main overall concerns due to the massive shortage of qualified staff and lack of support to the entire sector. Only two MHPSS sections with psychiatrists existed in the Iraq in 2016—there had been three prior to the conflict with IS, but the third one was in Mosul under IS control. Few universities train psychiatrists as psychiatry is not a priority field.[35]

Laws and policies

As noted above, increased conflict in Iraq severely effects the lives of persons with disabilities, including survivors. In 2015, it was reported that persons with disabilities in Iraq “face extensive discrimination in an environment and lack legislation protecting their rights…including services and facilities capable of meeting even basic medical or rehabilitative needs.”[36]

A review in 2016 recommended that Law 38 (2013) on the Care of Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs should be revised to ensure full compliance with the CRPD. It also noted that the widespread charity-based perception of disability in Iraq needed to change a rights-based approach to disability, in line with obligations of the CRPD.[37]

Iraq’s Council of Ministers approved a 3% public sector employment quota for persons with disabilities in 2013.[38] The government in the Kurdistan region was deliberately employing persons with disabilities.[39] Simplification of the procedures required to claim disability benefits was needed, together with widespread dissemination of the accessible procedures.[40]

An independent mechanism to oversee and monitor implementation of the CRPD, including mine survivors’ representative organization, AIDO, was established in 2015.

Women with disabilities in Iraq were reported to “suffer from flagrant and considerable discrimination” as reflected in their lack of access to education work, healthcare, rehabilitation, and integration into public life. It was recommended that the state enact legislation for the social protection of women with disabilities and increase the level of financial contributions.[41]

As of the end of 2016, Iraq was yet to implement the 2015 recommendation by the Committee on the Rights of the Child for Iraq to undertake effective inclusive education and awareness-raising programs to eliminate discrimination against children with disabilities and ensure their equal access to all social services and financial support.[42]

In 2015, it was reported that despite ratification of the CRPD, in Iraq and Kurdistan, persons with disabilities “are living in horrible conditions.”[43] In May 2015, representatives of DPOs from throughout Iraq received training on conducting a parallel (shadow) CRPD report. IADO is facilitating the process with HI support to finalize the report in 2017. From December 2015, representatives of DPOs and civil society organizations[44] participated in training of trainers sessions on disability-related issues in order to raise awareness among key stakeholders in their governorates.[45] Persons with disabilities, including mine/ERW survivors, protested indifference to the multiple forms of discrimination that affect them in front of state administration buildings in 2015.[46]

Implementation of the 2012 decree that all public buildings should be made accessible for persons with disabilities was incomplete, and access to buildings as well as to educational and work settings remained limited through to 2015.[47]

[1] Email from Riyad Nasir, Community Liaison Department, Directorate of Mine Action, 26 June 2016.

[2] Unlike in Afghanistan where the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) records data more completely. For Afghanistan, UNAMA categorizes IEDs by the basic method used to initiate detonation, including improvised landmines (victim-activated IEDs), remote control/radio/command-operated IEDs, and suicide IEDs. The most common victim-activated IEDs in Afghanistan are pressure plate IEDs, which are improvised landmines.

[3] See UNAMAI monthly reports on protection of civilians; and UNAMI/OCHA, “Report on the Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq: 1 May–31 October 2015,” January 2016.

[5] Within the process of installing the new information management system for mine action (IMSMA) version, the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Authority (IKMAA) cleaned up its casualty database and the total number of casualties in the database was reduced from 14,546, reported through the end of 2012, to 13,423. Additionally, the ratio of persons killed versus injured changed significantly. While the new ratio seems out of line with the ratio of persons killed and injured by mines and ERW in other countries and areas, these figures were confirmed by the IKMAA. Emails from Mudhafar Aziz Hamad, IKMAA, 14 July, 22 July, and 4 August 2014.

[6] 2,989 to April 2007; four in 2008; one in 2009; one in 2010; 16 in 2011; none in 2012; eight in 2013. Handicap International (HI), Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 104; Monitor analysis of casualty data provided by email from Mohammed Rasoul, Kurdistan Organization for Rehabilitation of the Disabled (KORD), 2 August 2010; Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2009), Form J. Casualties for Erbil and Dohuk governorates only; Monitor media monitoring for calendar year 2009; email from Aziz Hamad, IKMAA, 14 June 2011; and Convention on Cluster Munition Article 7 Report (calendar year 2013), Form H.

[7] It is not known if these 880 victims overlap with the 3,011 that were already identified. Convention on Cluster Munition Article 7 Report (calendar year 2013), Form H.

[8] HI, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 104; and UNDP, “Cluster Munitions Maim and Kill Iraqis – Every Day,” 10 November 2010.

[9] UN Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit (IAU), “Landmines and Unexploded Ordnances Fact Sheet,” April 2011.

[10] Information was not available on the number of survivors among the victims identified in the cumulative results of the ongoing survey available as of the end of December 2013. The most recent data distinguishing those people killed versus those injured was from March 2013. Responses to Monitor questionnaire from Mudhafar Aziz Hamad, IKMAA, 3 April 2013; and from Maythem Obead, DMA, 31 March 2013.

[11] Human Rights Council, “Summary Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Twentieth session,” A/HRC/WG.6/20/IRQ/3, 27 October–7 November 2014, p. 65.

[12] UNAMI/OHCHR, “Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Iraq,” December 2016, p. 20.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Responses to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, Head of Mission, HI, 24 June 2016.

[15] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Maythem Obead, DMA, 31 March 2013; and email from Ibrahim Baba Ali, Programme Specialist Mine Action, UNDP, 31 May 2012.

[16] Responses to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, HI, 24 June 2016.

[17] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2015), Form J; and Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2015), Form H.

[18] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Riyad Nasir, DMA, 27 July 2015.

[19] UNAMI/OHCHR, “Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Iraq,” December 2016, p. 20.

[20] MSF, “Iraq: MSF extends activities in Baghdad,” 8 December 2015.

[21] UNAMI and OHCHR, “Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Iraq,” December 2016, p. 12.

[22] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, HI, 24 June 2016.

[23] ICRC, “Annual Report 2015: Iraq,” Geneva, May 2016, p. 490.

[24] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Mudhafar Aziz Hamad, IKMAA, 17 March 2014.

[25] ICRC, “Annual Report 2015: Iraq,” Geneva, May 2016, p. 493.

[26] Ibid., p. 484.

[27] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, HI, 24 June 2016.

[28] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Mudhafar Aziz Hamad, IKMAA, 17 March 2014.

[29] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, HI, 24 June 2016.

[30] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Riyad Nasir, DMA, 27 July 2015.

[31] ICRC, “Annual Report 2015: Iraq,” Geneva, May 2016, p. 489; ICRC, “Annual Report 2014: Iraq,” Geneva, May 2015, p. 480; and ICRC, “Annual Report 2013: Iraq,” Geneva, May 2014, p. 480.

[32] ICRC, “Annual Report 2015: Iraq,” Geneva, May 2016, p. 489.

[34] UNAMI/OHCHR, “Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Iraq,” December 2016, p. 20.

[35] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, HI, 24 June 2016; see also:, “Resources: Iraq,” undated.

[36] Ken Rutherford and Megan Hinton, “Evolution of Disability Rights in Iraq,” Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 19.3, December 2015.

[37] UNAMI/OHCHR, “Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Iraq,” December 2016, p. 20.

[38] United States (US) Department of State, “2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Iraq,” Washington, DC, 1 April 2014.

[39] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, HI, 24 June 2016.

[40] UNAMI/OHCHR, “Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Iraq,” December 2016, p. 20.

[42] UNAMI/OHCHR, “Report on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Iraq,” December 2016, p. 20..

[43] European Network on Independent Living, “Severe Violations of Rights of Disabled People in Iraqi Kurdistan,” 3 August 2015.

[44] These organizations were: Rozh Society (Kirkuk and Suleymaniah), Nujeen (Dohuk), Zheen Society (Erbil), Halabja Handicap Association, IADO (Baghdad).

[45] Response to Monitor questionnaire from Fanny Mraz, HI, 24 June 2016.

[46] Jacky Sutton, “Iraq's political leaders are being made to feel the heat,” ABC News, 18 September 2015.

[47] US Department of State, “2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Iraq,” Washington, DC, 13 April 2016.