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The Impact of Explosive Violence on Children: A Global Crisis

Executive summary
Explosive violence in conflict zones has had devastating consequences for children around the world, resulting in significant casualties and long-lasting detrimental effects. This summary aims to provide an overview of the data collected by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) regarding explosive violence and its impact on children over the past decade (2013-2022). Additionally, it highlights the main issues faced by children in conflict zones, including safety, psychological health, and educational access.

Child Casualties and Affected Countries:
AOAV’s records reveal that a staggering 18,760 child casualties occurred due to explosive weapons during 2013-2022. These casualties accounted for 7% of the total 251,833 civilian casualties reported globally, and in the 6,075 incidents where children were reported among the civilian casualties, they accounted for 26% of the civilians killed and injured. Among the child casualties, at least 1,630 were girls, and 2,040 were boys. This number is likely to be a significant under-reporting, as we only capture data when reporters explicitly state that a child has been harmed. Syria emerged as the worst affected country, with 8,090 child casualties, representing 43% of all child casualties recorded worldwide.

Locations and Launch Methods:
The data further reveals that 89% (16,640) of children killed and injured by explosive weapons were harmed in populated areas. Urban residential areas accounted for 27% (4,984) of child casualties, while attacks in villages, multiple urban areas, and schools also caused significant harm to children. Air-launched weapons caused the majority (36%) of child casualties, followed by ground-launched weapons (33%) and improvised explosive devices (19%).

Injurious Explosive Weapons and UXOs:
Among the most injurious explosive weapons for children, air strikes, non-specific improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and shelling were prominent. Unexploded ordnance (UXOs), including ground-launched and air-launched explosive weapons, as well as mines, accounted for 9% of child casualties. UXOs were the fourth most injurious explosive weapon for children between 2013 and 2022. Additionally, at least 85 children were killed and injured by stockpile explosions.

Main Issues for Children:
Children in conflict zones face numerous challenges, including safety concerns, psychological health issues, and limited educational access. The vulnerability of children is exacerbated by the occurrence of explosive violence in their homes, schools, and hospitals, which exposes them to abuse, exploitation, and violence. Displacement is a significant issue, with an estimated 31 million children displaced by armed conflict as of 2018, including 19 million internally displaced children.

Psychological and Health Consequences:
Explosive violence has severe consequences for children’s psychological well-being, often resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Disruptions to healthcare infrastructure due to explosive violence further impede children’s access to necessary medical treatment, exacerbating the physical and psychological impact of their injuries. Insufficient pain management and limited pediatric care resources further compound the challenges faced in providing adequate healthcare for affected children.

Need for Awareness and Interventions:
AOAV’s data emphasises the need for increased awareness and targeted interventions to protect children from explosive violence, support their mental health, and ensure access to education. This includes advocating for policy changes, promoting safe and inclusive environments, and addressing the long-term consequences of displacement on children’s lives. Early intervention and psychological support are crucial for addressing the mental health needs of children affected by explosive violence.

Explosive violence in conflict zones poses a grave threat to the well-being of children worldwide. The data presented by AOAV underscores the urgent need for global attention and concerted efforts to protect children from the devastating impact of explosive weapons. Comprehensive strategies are required to address the physical, psychological, and educational needs of affected children, and to rebuild healthcare infrastructure in conflict-affected areas. Only through collective action can we provide a safer and more secure future for children impacted by explosive violence.

Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of AOAV, says: “Explosive violence continues to take a devastating toll on children in conflict zones, causing immense suffering and long-term consequences. The data collected by AOAV underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to protect children from the indiscriminate effects of explosive weapons. It is crucial that we raise awareness, advocate for policy changes, and provide targeted interventions to address the physical and psychological well-being of these vulnerable young lives. Only through collective action can we work towards a future where children are shielded from the horrors of explosive violence and given the opportunity to grow, learn, and thrive.”