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Explosive Violence Monitor: 2020

Civilians continued to suffer disproportionately from the impacts of explosive weapons in 2020.

This is AOAV’s tenth annual report on harm from explosive weapons looking at global impact of explosive violence in 2020.

In 2020, AOAV recorded 18,747 deaths and injuries as a result of the use of explosive weapons around the world. Civilians continued to suffer disproportionately, accounting for 59% of total casualties, with 11,056 civilian deaths and injuries.  

Of those reported harmed by explosive weapons in populated areas in 2020, 88% were civilians. In addition, civilian casualties in populated areas accounted for 89% of total civilian casualties.

Such findings reflect the consistent pattern of harm AOAV has monitored over the decade. Between 2011 and 2020, AOAV found that when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, on average nine in every ten deaths and injuries caused were civilians.

Last year Afghanistan was, for the first time since our records began in 2011, recorded as the worst impacted country, according to civilian casualties reported from the use of explosive weapons. Though the levels of violence fell significantly in Syria, it remained the second-worst impacted country.

While this data highlights the immediate impact of explosive weapons on the lives of civilians, the reverberating consequences of explosive weapons, such as the destruction of infrastructure, displacement and the psychological harm, see millions more suffer.

The full report is available for download here: Explosive violence monitor 2020.

The key findings of the report are:

  • In total, AOAV recorded 18,747 deaths and injuries by explosive weapons in 2,910 incidents in 2020. Of these, 11,056 were civilians – 59%.
  • In total, 8,165 people were killed (of which 3,668 were civilians), and 10,582 were injured (of which 7,388 were civilians) by explosive weapons globally.
  • Civilian deaths and injuries in populated areas represented 89% of all reported civilian deaths and injuries.
  • When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 88% of those killed and injured were civilians. This compares to 16% in other areas.
  • AOAV recorded 9,880 civilians killed and injured in populated areas.
  • Civilian deaths and injuries from explosive violence saw a decrease of 43% last year, compared to the year before. This means that this is the third consecutive year in which AOAV has recorded a drop in civilian casualties.
  • Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for at least 6,186 civilian casualties (56%). While improvised explosive devices (IEDs) accounted for at least 4,778 civilian casualties (43%). (A further 92 civilian casualties were caused by incidents using multiple types of launch methods.)
  • Air-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 17% of all civilian deaths and injuries. Ground-launched explosive weapons were responsible for 34%. The remaining civilian casualties were caused by incidents using mines (3%), those recorded with an unclear launch method (1%), using multiple types of explosive weapons (<1%) and naval-launched explosives (<1%).
  • Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya saw the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries in 2020 with 3,485, 3,013, 689, 683 and 671 civilian casualties respectively.
  • Despite most countries seeing decreases in casualties, the increasing tension in Myanmar, Azerbaijan (over the Nagorno-Karabakh region), Iran and Cameroon led to increases in these countries.
  • Incidents were recorded in 48 countries and territories around the world; twelve less locations than in 2019.

Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), said of the report: “AOAV’s data continues to show the disproportionate impact explosive violence has on civilians, particularly when used in populated areas. The data has consistently shown that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas the vast majority of casualties will be civilian – nine in every ten casualties.

States must sign up to the political declaration that is currently being developed that will ensure civilians are protected from the use of explosive weapons in these areas.”

For the report please click here.

For more information on this report, please contact Iain Overton, AOAV’s Executive Director on +44 (0) 7984 645 145 or at