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The United States must join the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Explosive weapons

President Barack Obama will be attending the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit in Laos from 6 to 8 September 2016. His visit, the first ever by an American president to Laos, comes more than 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, during which the United States dropped in excess of two million tonnes of bombs on Laos, including more than 270 million sub-munitions.

Handicap International's deminer searches for cluster bombs in a rice paddy.

Un démineur de Handicap International dans un champ de riz | © S.Goldberg / Handicap International

According to the Cluster Munition Monitor, sub-munition remnants have killed or injured more than 7,600 people in Laos since 1964 and continue to cause new casualties every year: an estimated 30% of sub-munitions dropped in the 1960s did not explode on impact. Around 70 million of these mini-bombs are scattered across Laos. Laos is the country most heavily polluted by sub-munitions in the world.

This deadly legacy has contaminated almost 25% of the country’s villages, particularly along its eastern border. Handicap International has been taking part in demining projects in Laos since 2006. Within eight years, the organisation has secured 25,000 unexploded devices.

The United States, one of the world’s leading financial supporters of efforts to clear anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordnance worldwide, and particularly in Laos, must sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of sub-munitions worldwide[1]. There are now 100 States Parties to the Convention and 19 Signatory States.



Civilians account for more than 90% of all global casualties of cluster bombs. These weapons kill, injure, maim and cause serious psychological trauma. Up to 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact. They render whole areas uninhabitable, prevent the return of normal social and economic life, and displace people from their homes. These explosive remnants pose a threat to civilians, sometimes for decades after a conflict has ended.


[1] The 2016 Cluster Munition Monitor, which is coordinated by Handicap International with three other NGOs, is the seventh annual report of its kind. It reports on a complete range of sub-munition issues including ban policy, use, production, trade and stockpiling around the world. It also provides information on contamination by these weapons, weapons clearance and victim assistance.


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Completion of demining operations
Explosive weapons

Completion of demining operations

HI has completed its demining operations in the Tshopo, Ituri, Bas-Uele and Haut-Uele provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), launched in January 2016. Over a two-year period, HI and its local partner, AFRILAM (Africa for Anti-Mine Action) cleared 34,520 m2 of land of mines, the equivalent of 5 football pitches, benefiting the 5,600 inhabitants in the region.

Mine action in 2018
© Blaise Kormann/L’illustré/HI
Explosive weapons

Mine action in 2018

Developments in mine clearance largely reflect recent changes in response environments. Thomas Hugonnier, head of Mine Action at HI, explains how this currently affects our mine clearance operations.

Deir Ezzor: The fighting may be over but the danger is still present
© E.Fourt/HI
Explosive weapons

Deir Ezzor: The fighting may be over but the danger is still present

On 3 November 2017, the armed forces took back control of the town of Deir Ezzor in Syria.[1] The fighting inside and surrounding the city lasted several months, creating numerous civilian victims and displacing over 300,000 people. Handicap International (HI) is gravely concerned about the situation in the field. 


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