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AOAV: all our reportsHealth and explosive violenceReverberating effects

Blast injury: the reverberating health consequences from the use of explosive weapons -Conclusions and Recommendations

This article highlights the conclusions and recommendations of AOAV’s examination of the health impacts from explosive violence.

The full report, Blast injury: the reverberating health from the use of explosive weapons, can be found here. The summary and key findings can be found here.

AOAV welcomes the increased research into blast injuries and their treatment, particularly the release of the paediatric blast injury field manual, as well as ongoing research into the reverberating impacts of explosive weapons.

Given, though, the complex health needs caused by explosive harm, it is small wonder that patient needs frequently fail to be met. Such a failure is all too often exacerbated by a lack of funding, with many conflict-affected populations competing over a dwindling pool of funds. In 2017 and 2018, aid funds covered less than half of all humanitarian aid needed. This means that the needs of survivors of explosive violence persists and go untreated, often for decades after the conflict ends. With humanitarian aid usually lasting for only six to 12 months after the end of a war, blast injury research highlights why this short time frame is wholly insufficient.   

NGOs providing healthcare to Syrian refugees in Lebanon consistently expressed concern over decreasing funding, and said that a key reason for this low prioritisation was a false belief that refugees could be encouraged through poorly funded Lebanese services to return, instead, to Syria. The truth is that many of those in Ukraine, Syria, refugee host countries, as well as other conflict-affected countries, remain unable to access essential healthcare.  Reducing an already meagre amount to encourage refugees to leave is inhumane and counter-productive. Far more must be done by states to respond to this vital need. 

Perhaps more importantly, though, needs to be action to prevent civilians being harmed by explosive violence in the first place. Preventative action is urgently needed. Far too many civilians are killed and injured by explosive violence, particularly when explosive weapons are used in populated areas. AOAV’s data shows that – on average – more than nine in ten deaths and injuries will be civilians when explosive weapons with wide area effects are used in populated areas.

One of the best ways to reduce such devastation would include preventing the use of explosive weapons with wide-area impacts in populated areas. And, while efforts to develop a political declaration to end the use of such weapons in populated areas are on-going, commitment by states cannot come soon enough.

Recommendations

  • AOAV calls on states and other actors to politically commit to stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas.
  • States and users of explosive weapons should work towards the full realisation of the rights of victims, including those killed and injured, their families, and affected communities. They should strive to ensure the timely and adequate provision of needed services for the recovery, rehabilitation and inclusion of victims of explosive violence, without discrimination.
  • States should be cognisant of the fact that even when civilians are not killed, destruction to civilian infrastructure can have widespread and long-term harm for communities. 
  • More research is needed to better understand the long-term harm to health for those impacted by the use of explosive weapons in low and middle-income countries.
  • Greater efforts should be made to record, analyse and share data on lasting health impacts from explosive weapons.
  • Efforts should be made to raise the standards of living conditions for refugees and the displaced, to reduce further injury as well as complications to existing injuries as a result of explosive weapons, and to alleviate the consequential burden on the local healthcare infrastructure.