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A frightening increase in the number of victims of explosive weapons

Explosive weapons
Iraq Ukraine Yemen

On the occasion of the International Day for Mine Awareness, HI is alarmed by the frightening increase in the number of civilian victims of explosive weapons : 32,008 civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2016 (out of a total of 45,624 victims), according to Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). The toll looks even heavier for 2017, as civilians account for 90% of the victims of explosive weapons when they are used in populated areas. Landmine Monitor has recorded a dramatic increase in casualties of mine and explosive remnants over the past three years. Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen are among the main countries affected.

Demining operation in Iraq

Demining operation in Iraq | (c) E. Fourt/HI

The Syrian conflict is particularly marked by the massive and repeated use of explosive weapons. According to a census by the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), 33,394 attacks involving explosive weapons took place in Syria in 2017 (70% of the incidents recorded).

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is massive and continuous. This practice, which mostly kills and injures civilians, leaves many large areas contaminated by explosive remnants of war after the fighting: For example, Eastern Ghouta is heavily contaminated as a result of the air strikes launched on the 18th of February 2018, which killed more than 1,100 people. During the offensive in Raqqa in 2017, massive air strikes and artillery fire devastated the town and densely contaminated it with explosive remnants. It will take years to clear these areas.

"The presence of explosive remnants of war or improvised mines prevents people from returning to their homes once the attack or conflict is over," HI Head of Mine Action, Thomas Hugonnier. “In Iraq, in Syria, this pollution has reached an unprecedented level which will require mine clearance operations for many years. It also makes risk education sessions essential to teach the population to have the right reflexes when faced with an explosive remnant and thus to protect themselves against the risks of accidents.

In Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, etc., bombings and shelling have left explosive remnants of war that permanently contaminate large areas long after fighting has stopped. In neighbourhoods or villages that have been bombed, the presence of these explosive remnants of war threatens the lives of civilians and makes it impossible to return to normal social and economic life.

Published last November, Landmine Monitor's annual report documents the staggering increase in the number of victims from mine and explosive remnants of war in 2016. The report shows that the number of new victims of industrial or artisanal mines and explosive remnants of war has increased 2.5-fold in three years, from 3,450 in 2013 to 8,605 in 2016.

This is the heaviest toll recorded by the Observatory since the publication of its first annual report in 2000 (9,228 victims recorded in 1999). The number of new victims increases for the third consecutive year after 15 years of almost continuous decline.

Stop bombing civilians

HI is running an international campaign to say "stop bombing civilians". The association aims to collect 1 million signatures to be submitted to political decision-makers in September 2018. HI works within the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) coalition to encourage states to commit to ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

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Ukraine: children more often exposed to the dangers of explosive devices
© R. Crews / HI

Ukraine: children more often exposed to the dangers of explosive devices

A former deminer, Viktoria leads explosive ordnance education sessions in Ukraine. She explains Humanity & Inclusion's approach to protecting children, who are more exposed than adults.

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The Landmine Monitor 2022 reports a high number of casualties caused by landmines - including improvised mines and explosive remnants of war - for the seventh year in a row. The Monitor recorded 5,544 casualties in 2021. 75% of them were civilians. This high figure is mainly the result of increased armed conflicts and contamination with improvised mines since 2015. The use of landmines by the Russian and Myanmar armies, as well as by non-state armed groups in five countries, are the main factors of a sharp global increase of the use of these weapons in 2022.

States will gather in Geneva from November 21th to 25th for the 20th annual Mine Ban Treaty conference. As we celebrate the 25 years of the Ottawa Treaty, HI urges States to pressure parties to conflict to end the use of these barbaric weapons and to support the funding of victims assistance that is shrinking despite growing needs and high casualty rates in recent years.

Read the full report.

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities
© G. Lordet / HI
Explosive weapons

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities

Acknowledging the devastating humanitarian consequences of bombing and shelling of towns and cities, 80 States adopted an international agreement to better protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, at the Dublin Conference on November 18, 2022.