Airstrikes kill civilians
Mohammad, HI’s physiotherapist, during a rehabilitation session with Abdallah, 13, from West Mosul. His leg was broken in a missile explosion. | © William Daniels/HI
Of the total civilian deaths due to explosive weapons (15,399), 58% were caused by airstrikes, mainly in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Civilian deaths from airstrikes in this 11-month period increased by 82% compared to the same period in 2016. Around 70% of incidents continue to be perpetrated in populated areas.
Airstrikes are almost always used by coalitions and armies belonging to State actors. They were responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in 2017, for the first time since AOAV’s reports were launched in 2011.
“While most conflicts today are fought in urban areas, States need to recognise the many humanitarian problems caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas including serious and disabling injuries, severe psychological trauma, forced displacement and the impoverishment of populations, the destruction of essential infrastructure (hospitals, ports, bridges, etc.), and the loss of a community’s social and economic fabric. They must take action to end this practice, which has devastating consequences for local populations,” says Anne Héry, director of advocacy at HI.
Towards a political declaration
A member of the INEW (International Network on Explosive Weapons) coalition, HI is calling on all states to bring an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including by supporting international initiatives to that end. The organisation is also asking the public to sign a petition in order to mobilise States to take action against this scourge.
Civilians account for 92% of victims of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, a practice now commonplace in current conflicts. Used in populated areas, explosive weapons kill, cause suffering and serious injuries (burns, open wounds, fractures, etc.), and lead to the onset of severe disabilities and psychological trauma. The use of these weapons also leads to the forced displacement of people and destroys essential infrastructure such as homes, schools and hospitals.
During an attack, a variable percentage of these weapons do not explode on impact, creating a permanent threat to civilians long after a conflict is over. The presence of explosive remnants of war makes it dangerous for people to return to their neighbourhoods once the attack or conflict has ended.