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The reverberating effects of explosive weapon use in Syria

In the last eight years, the country worst impacted in the world from explosive weapons has been Syria.  In light of this, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has undertaken research into the reverberating effects of violence there to better understand the long-term harm these weapons cause and the challenges that lie ahead for the country. Our findings are presented here in this report.

Between 2011 and 2018, AOAV tracked 79,206 casualties from explosive weapons in Syria as reported in English language media. Of these 85% (67,263) were civilians, though the true figure is probably far higher.

The use of explosive weapons in Syria has been devastating. It has destroyed key infrastructure and deprived communities of clean water, sanitation, electricity and medical care, forcing many to flee their homes and neighbourhoods. Many Syrians have suffered profound psychological harm, with interruptions to education and employment also stunting development. Explosive weapon use has left vast swathes of land contaminated, causing further casualties and preventing families from returning to their homes and using their land. Such impacts have devastating and lingering consequences for communities.

AOAV has conducted 50 interviews with academics, experts, NGOs and UN personnel, as well as with refugees and other impacted civilians. Our findings show that harm from explosive weapons will not cease when the bombing ends. The relentless bombardment of Syria over the last eight years has caused lasting harm to all areas of civilian life. Focusing on four key areas – health, economy, environment and society and culture – AOAV found:

Health:

  • Life expectancy in Syria dropped by over 20 years
  • More than 800 healthcare workers had been killed in attacks on medical facilities
  • The number of physicians in Syria has decreased by at least 67.5%
  • In some of the worst impacted areas over 40% were living with a disability

Economy:

  • Syria’s GDP stands at half of its pre-conflict level
  • The Syrian Pound has depreciated by 400%
  • Jobs have been destroyed at an estimated average rate of 538,000 per year
  • More than 80% of Syrians live below the poverty line; seven in ten Syrians reportedly live in extreme poverty

Environment:

  • In 2017, there were at least 1,906 casualties reported from landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)
  • Clearance of landmines and ERW could take approximately 50 years
  • The destruction to civilian infrastructure across Syria amounts to over $75 billion
  • 50% of basic infrastructure in Syria is thought to be either destroyed or rendered non-operational
  • Coalition bombing has damaged over 250 targets related to oil installations

Society and Culture:

  • 6.6 million people are displaced inside Syria, whilst the conflict has led to over 5.6 million Syrian refugees
  • A quarter of Syrian schools are estimated to be unusable owing to violence
  • Over 45% of the school-aged children in Syria no longer attend education
  • All six of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria have been severely damaged or destroyed
  • Over 14,400 mosques have been destroyed across Syria since 2011

To read the full report, please see here. For further related articles, interviews and videos please see here. And, for further research on reverberating harm from explosives in other contexts, please see here.