2022 saw the highest number of casualties from cluster bombs since 2008, the year most of the world banned them, according to an annual report from the Cluster Munition Coalition, or CMC, released Tuesday. Civilians represent 95% of the victims.
Cluster bombs killed or wounded 1,172 people in 2022, mostly non-combatants, a nearly eightfold increase from 2021. That casualty number was 890 in Ukraine alone. Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Laos, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, and Yemen also recorded casualties.
According to the report, children accounted for 71% of casualties from unexploded remnants, often mistaking the small, shiny fragments for playthings.
Cluster bombs scatter explosives across wide swaths of land. Some submunitions initially fail to detonate, so unseen bomblets can linger in terrain like landmines, killing and disabling civilians years after a conflict has ended. Once an area has been contaminated, countryside used for agriculture becomes unworkable; routes where humanitarian aid could be delivered become impassable.
Loren Persi, who helped edit the report, emphasized the need “for improved access to rehabilitation services [particularly in remote war-torn areas].”
Today, 124 nations recognize a global ban on cluster bombs. As per the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, those countries have committed to restoring contaminated lands, dismantling the last of their stockpiles, and assisting victims.
“All countries that have not banned these weapons must do so immediately,” said Tamar Gabelnick, director of the CMC, referring to some of the biggest players in geopolitics, like the U.S. and Russia.
Since February 2022, Russia has repeatedly peppered Ukraine with cluster bombs. Ukraine has used cluster bombs, too, albeit to a lesser extent. In July, the U.S. began transferring an unknown load of stockpiled 155mm artillery-delivered cluster bombs to Kyiv. At least 21 government leaders and dignitaries from around the world have condemned that decision, including some who support Ukraine’s war effort.
“It’s unconscionable that civilians are still dying and being wounded from cluster munitions 15 years after these weapons were prohibited,” said Mary Wareham from Human Rights Watch at a press conference in Geneva.
Activists like Wareham are worried that a resurgence in cluster bombs could diminish global support for the 2008 ban, permanently shifting how wars play out for the worse.
Source : VOA News