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New report shows hidden impact of bombing on civilians

Explosive weapons
Jordan Lebanon Syria

"Everywhere the bombing followed us", a new report by Handicap International, shows the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, in terms of  the loss of livelihood, the disruption of civilian infrastructure, and the long-term impact on mental health.

A Syrian woman holds her head in her hands

© Benoit Almeras / Handicap International

One year after the launch of the report “Qasef: Escaping the bombing”, Handicap International today launches a new report: "Everywhere the bombing followed us".

The new report confirms that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Syria is an overriding factor in the forced displacement of population. It highlights that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas drives multiple forced displacements and induces a pattern of displacement which increased the vulnerability of civilians.

Through this report, Handicap international gives a voice to forcibly displaced Syrians and calls on the international community and parties to the conflict in Syria to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas drives multiple forced displacements

“You see people from Homs migrate to Aleppo and people from Aleppo migrate to Homs. Each time the bombing escalates, people escape. It’s the same in each city… We were in a state of continual settlement and migration. For Syrian people, life and death is on the road.” said Amira, 44.

Amira used to live near Aleppo, where she was a teacher. From 2012 to 2015, she witnessed bombing and shelling in her village, before she was able to flee to Turkey and then to Lebanon in 2016. One of her sons was killed during a bombing. She now lives alone with her younger son, and suffers from depression.

Hidden impact of bombing

Quantitative data collected during the survey shows that:

  • The majority of respondents (some 133) had been displaced to between 1 and 3 different Syrian cities prior to seeking refuge in Lebanon.
  • 44% of all respondents had their own homes destroyed due to the use of explosive weapons.
  • 36% of respondents directly linked the use of explosive weapons to the destruction of civilian property other than homes.
  • 83% of the respondents who sustained bombing-related injuries resulting in disability are men. Meanwhile, a higher percentage of female respondents (10% higher) referenced explosive violence causing injury to a family member or friend.
  • 44% of all those surveyed asserted that they had their livelihoods destroyed because of explosive weapons use.

The study demonstrates the considerable harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in terms of socio-economic vulnerability, linked to the loss of livelihood and the disruption of civilian infrastructure, as well as the long-term impact on mental health.

The combination of fear, stress, and distress was identified as the third most important collective effect of explosive weapons use in Syria.

Towards an international political declaration on explosive weapons

In recent years, the United Nations Secretary General has expressed concern over the protection of civilians in conflict, identifying the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a significant cause of concern in this regard. Around 70 states have now also recognised the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a key humanitarian issue of concern.

As a founding member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), Handicap International has been calling for the development of an international political declaration on explosive weapons.

This new report, "Everywhere the bombing followed us", is an important contribution to this political process. Handicap International will present the report in Geneva on 5th October 2017 and in New York on 17th October.

In parallel, Handicap International has launched a global public campaign, “STOP Bombing Civilians”, with the aim of collecting 1 million signatures.

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