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New Save the Children report finds three in four child casualties in world’s deadliest conflicts are caused by explosive weapons

A new report, Blast Injuries: The impact of explosive weapons on children in conflict, was released today by Save the Children. This report also coincided with the release of the The Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual, by the Paediatric Blast Injury Partnership (PBIP), of which Save the Children is a co-convenor. A press release on the findings can be read, here.

The report found that explosive weapons, such as suicide bombs, landmines, unexploded ordinance, and air strikes, for example, account for 72% of child deaths and injuries across the world’s deadliest war zones.

The analysis is based on UN data on the five deadliest conflicts for children – Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen – as well as from a new review of child injury data, commissioned by PBIP.

Other key findings include:

  • In 2017 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen 7,364 children were killed or maimed in conflict, with an estimated 5,322 of those linked to blasts.
  • In Afghanistan, explosive weapons were the cause of death in 84 per cent of child conflict fatalities over a two-year period, compared to 56 per cent of civilian adult deaths. Child casualties were approximately twice as likely to be killed by rockets, mortars and grenades than adult casualties.
  • Half of all child casualties in 2017 in Nigeria were the result of suicide attacks or IEDs
  • Children’s bones bend more than those of adults, meaning a higher chance of long-term deformities as a result of blast injury. A child’s skull is also not as thick as that of an adult, meaning their risk of brain injury is higher.
  • A child’s natural curiosity can put them in harm’s way. Unexploded ordnance – being small and sometimes colourful – can be easily mistaken for toys.
  • Children are not only at grave risk of injury or death from explosives during conflict but also in the aftermath, such as in the Ukraine where 220,000 children in the east of the country were at risk from landmines in 2017.
  • In some cases, children in conflict were exclusively killed by blasts, such as in 2014 in Gaza where 100% of all reported child fatalities were the result of explosive weapons
  • The physical toll of explosive weapons on children is coupled with a heavy psychological toll, with 84% of adults and almost all children saying that ongoing bombing and shelling was the number one cause of psychological stress in children’s daily lives.

In response to the findings, PBIP launched a new ground-breaking field handbook to help doctors and surgeons working with children injured by explosive weapons.

For the full report, see here, and to see the Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual, please click here.