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Casualties of mines and explosive remnants of war jump record 75% in one year

Iraq Syria Ukraine Yemen

There was a record increase in the number of casualties of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in 2015, up 75% from 2014. This heavy toll was due to intensive and systematic bombing of populated areas in recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine. The vast majority of people killed and injured in these attacks were civilians. Founder of an international campaign to stop the bombing of civilians, Handicap International is once again calling for an immediate end to this practice and for the international community to condemn it in the strongest terms.

Explosive remnants in Libya | LIBYA (c) Jen Jacques Bernard Handicap International

“Bombing and shelling not only have a devastating impact during an attack, they also leave behind large quantities of explosive remnants of war, since a significant proportion of weapons do not explode on impact. These explosive remnants continue to put civilian lives at risk long after a fight or conflict. They pose exactly the same threat as anti-personnel mines”, explains Anne Héry, director of Advocacy at Handicap International.


The situation in figures:

  • Published last November, the Landmine Monitor recorded at least 6,461 people killed or injured by these weapons in 2015 due to conflicts in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.
  • 21% of victims in 2015 (1,331) are casualties of improvised mines.
  • 90% of people killed or injured by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians.
  • According to a report by the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), there were 8,656 attacks using explosive weapons in Syria between 26 September and 28 December 2016, accounting for 72% of reported attacks - an average of 94 bombing or shelling incidents a day.
  • According to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), more than 3.6 million Syrians live in areas contaminated by explosive remnants of war and improvised devices; almost 1.5 million people live in areas where incidents related to explosive devices have been reported; unexploded devices have been reported in 20% of the territory.


“Explosive remnants of war make it dangerous for people to return home once an attack or conflict has ended,” explains Thomas Hugonnier, head of Handicap International’s operations in Iraq. “In Iraq and Syria, this contamination has reached an unprecedented level which will require years of mine clearance. It also makes risk education sessions vital to teach people to respond in the right way when they come across an explosive remnant and to avoid the risk of accidents.”

On 15 March 2017, Handicap International has launched an international campaign to gather one million signatures to say “stop the bombing of civilians” which the association plans to hand over to policy makers in September 2018. As a member of the INEW (International Network on Explosive Weapons) coalition, the organisation is calling on States to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

“Handicap International strongly condemns the high price paid by the civilians of Mosul following the bombing of populated areas, including the attack of last March 17” declares Jérôme Bobin, Executive Director of Handicap International Canada. “Handicap International calls on States and non-State armed groups to immediately end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, their sale and transfer, to strongly condemn their use under any circumstances and, when they are party to a conflict, to apply pressure on their allies not to use these weapons.”

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© William Daniels/HI

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[1] Syrian armed forces, Syrian Democratic Forces (FDS) and coalition.  

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© Elias Saade / HI
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