AOAV: all our reportsAir strikesImpact of explosive violence on civilians

Global explosive violence sharply declines during Covid19, new data suggests

Data from Action on Armed Violence, the London-based research charity that tracks English language media reporting of explosive violence, suggests there was a 58% decrease globally in civilian victims from explosive violence between April and July 2020, compared to the same four months in 2019.

During the global ‘lock-down’ because of Covid 19, there were 425 fewer recorded global explosive weapon incidents causing casualties compared to the Spring and Summer months of a year ago – a 30% decline. Such a drop off had a marked impact on civilian harm.

In 2019, there were 1,426 incidents reported in English language media in April, May, June and July. These killed or injured some 7,794 civilians and 3,213 armed actors around the world.

In 2020, the global response to the deadly pandemic appeared to stay the hands of militaries and of terror groups, leading to the lower number of 1,001 incidents causing 3,275 civilian and 2,381 armed actor casualties. This comprises a drop of 58% in civilian harm compared to a year before.

The attacks that were recorded also appeared to have been less harmful than a year before. On average, every attack last year between April and July caused 5.5 civilian casualties. This year, in the same period, the average attack led to 3.3 civilians being killed or injured.

In particular, air-strikes seemed to have been largely suspended during the lock-down.  In 2020, the four months examined witnessed 160 incidents compared to 554 a year before. This meant there was an 84% decrease in civilians being killed or injured by air-launched bombs and missiles; 394 people were harmed in the examined period in 2020, compared to 2,410 a year ago.

Groups that use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) also reduced their attacks, with 1,466 civilians killed or injured in largely terror strikes during the four months of lockdown compared to 3,723 a year before – a drop of 84%.

Syria saw a notable drop off in violence – with a 78% comparative drop-off in civilian deaths and injuries from 3,150 (2019) to 706 (2020) in the months April to July.

Other nations that saw similar declines in the same comparative periods include Afghanistan (30% drop – 1,654 to 1,165); Yemen (31% drop – 236 to 163); Somalia (48% drop – 270 to 141); and Pakistan (63% drop – 354 to 132).

As these figures are derived from English language media reports, taken from news outlets that have been dominated by Covid19 reporting during 2020, it is possible that some explosive attacks did not get reported on.  As such, the real number of attacks during the pandemic could be higher. But the fact that the drop-off in recorded harm occurred in almost every nation and region around the world strongly suggests that the global contagion caused a decline in explosive violence.

Libya was one of the few countries that saw a rise in civilian harm, with 479 civilians being killed or injured in the four months analysed in 2020 compared to 431 in the same period in 2019.

“These global figures show that, in the end, explosive violence is – to a degree – preventable,” said Iain Overton, Action on Armed Violence’s Executive Director. “If a pandemic can stay the hands of those who would bomb and injure civilians, then why can this not serve as a reminder that such violence is – ultimately – unnecessary?”

“If any good can come from this terrible disease, perhaps it can be this observation: that war, like Covid19, must be contained and possibly, with the right measures, prevented.”

The full dataset can be viewed here.