A terrible cost for civilians
Data collected by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) shows that at least 112,000 civilians have been reported as killed or injured by explosive weapons in the last four years.
Between 2011 and 2014, AOAV has recorded a total of 144,545 deaths and injuries from the use of explosive weapons like aircraft bombs, rockets, artillery and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Of these, 78% were reported to be civilians.
AOAV’s explosive violence monitor, set up in October 2010, tracks the deaths and injuries reported in English-language media sources.
2014 saw a 5% increase in civilian casualties (deaths and physical injuries) from 2013 levels. This was the third consecutive years in which there was an increase in civilian casualties from explosive weapon use.
A clear and predictable pattern
Over the course of four years, a clear and consistent pattern of harm has emerged. Explosive weapons, which are united by their ability to affect an area with blast and fragmentation, are highly destructive when used in populated areas. These are areas where there is a concentration of civilians. The majority of attacks recorded in the last four years by AOAV (61%) took place in such an area.
When explosive weapons were used in populated areas between 2011-2014, 90% of the resulting casualties were civilians. This compares to just 34% in other areas.
The often wide-area effect of explosive weapons means that it is hard to limit the power of such munitions to a specific target. When used in populated areas, it is often civilians who bear the burden. AOAV is a founding member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW). We believe that urgent action is needed in order to prevent further human suffering from the use of these weapons in populated areas.
A global problem
Whether it is a massive aerial bomb tearing through an apartment block in Gaza or a barrage of Grad rockets in eastern Ukraine, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has been synonymous with many of the worst conflicts and crises in recent years.
In all, 92 different countries and territories suffered an incident of explosive weapon use between 2011 and 2014 (where at least one death or injury was reported from the active use of an explosive weapon). Of these, 88 saw at least one civilian casualty.
The worst-affected countries were, in order, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Gaza.
Powerful, inaccurate, and many: the wide-area impact of explosive weapons
AOAV broadly groups these weapons into three categories: air-launched explosive weapons, ground-launched explosive weapons, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Air-launched explosive weapons includes any bomb, rocket or missile delivered from an aircraft. Between 2011-2014, these weapons killed and injured at least 12,069 civilians, in 20 different countries and territories. This was 11% of the total collated by AOAV.
Ground-launched explosive weapons covers a large variety of munitions launched from surface level. from hand grenades up to multiple rocket launchers. Commonly, it captures the use of indirect-fire munitions, like mortars and artillery. These weapons killed and injured at least 25,823 civilians, 23% of all civilian casualties recorded in this time period.
IEDs include car bombs and roadside bombs, as well as those detonated by a suicide bomber. These weapons are increasingly widespread, and killed and injured 70,196 civilians between 2011-2014. As with ground-launched weapons, a casualty from this group of weapons was recorded in 68 countries and territories. Almost half of civilian casualties from IEDs were recorded in Iraq.
Every year, AOAV has published an annual report which delves in detail into the global impact of these weapons.
To find more information of the impact of explosive weapons, see here:
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