Go to main content

Aerial bombing has devastating consequences for civilians

Explosive weapons
Syria

In 2016, a record number of civilians were killed in bombing raids in Syria. One in every four civilians killed by aerial bombing in urban areas was under 18 years old, according to a study published by Lancet Global Health based on a Violence Documentation Centre (VDC) dataset. The study points to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas - a practice Handicap International (HI) vigorously campaigns against - and its devastating effects on civilians as the cause of these figures.  

Ahlam, 8, was victim of a bombing and had to be amputated of her right leg. | © Elias Saade / HI

Three-quarters of the people killed in the Syria conflict are civilians,[1] a fact reiterated in the Lancet study (civilians account for 71% of fatalities compared to 29% for combatants in the period 2011 - 2016). Some weapons, due to their wide-area effects, almost exclusively kill civilians.

Due to the intensity of the aerial bombing, the proportion of children killed by the conflict increased from 9% in 2011 (out of a total of 4,354 civilians killed) to 23% in 2016 (out of a total of 11,444 civilians killed).  The report specifies: "Aerial bombing and shelling rapidly became primary causes of direct deaths of women and children and had disproportionate lethal effects on civilians, calling into question the use of wide-area explosive weapons in urban areas."

Revising military policy and practices

Experience shows that military policies and practices can be revised to ensure improved protection for civilians. As Anne Héry, Director of Advocacy at Handicap International (HI) states, "the international community must take action to end the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. Military policy and practices need to be worked on, including the sharing of good practices at international level."

Citizen-led mobilisation

Over the last few months, HI has been asking members of the general public to sign a petition against the bombing of civilians. HI has been advocating that States draft a policy statement with three main commitments: that States put an end to the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas; that they acknowledge the suffering of the civilian population and support the victims; and that they work to revise military policy and practices. The drafting of this political statement is one of the key goals of HI’s campaign. The organisation aims to mobilise a large number of States on this issue, in order to tangibly improve the protection afforded to civilians during conflicts.

 

[1] Figures obtained from a dataset of 143,630 fatalities for which the information on the cause of death was complete.

Where we work

Read more

"The mine threw me up into the air and ripped my leg off"
© Ayman / HI
Emergency Explosive weapons Rehabilitation

"The mine threw me up into the air and ripped my leg off"

Raja, from Yemen, is 13 years old. She was looking after the sheep in the mountains when she trod on a mine which exploded and threw her into the air.  Her leg was ripped off.

Latin America says Stop Bombing Civilians
© HI
Explosive weapons Rights

Latin America says Stop Bombing Civilians

The Regional Conference on Protecting Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas organized by HI, in Santiago, Chile, ended on 6 December. 23 States adopted the Santiago Communiqué expressing concern over the devastating impact on civilians of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Well done HI Advocacy team!

Latin and Central America against the bombing of populated areas
© Thomas Dossus / HI
Explosive weapons Rights

Latin and Central America against the bombing of populated areas

On 5th and 6th December 2018, Humanity & Inclusion will organise a regional conference in Santiago, the capital of Chile, on protecting civilians from bombing. Twenty-six governments and some thirty civil society organisations and international NGOs will attend. The organisation hopes to raise awareness of this crucial issue and encourage States to take a stand against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.