For the past six years, Syrians have been the victims of a conflict marked by indiscriminate bombing that is of a rare intensity. An average of 94 attacks a day using explosive weapons were reported between September and December 2016. Handicap International, known for its successful international campaigns that helped bring about the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions, calls on all parties to the conflict to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
“Bombing and shelling are the rule in the Syrian conflict,” says Mélanie Broquet, head of monitoring and coordination for Handicap International’s Syrian crisis programs. “They have reached a level of terrifying intensity, with a devastating impact on civilians. Entire cities have been destroyed and their populations traumatized. It will take generations for the country to recover once the conflict is over.”
According to the United Nations, 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance. Every month, 30,000 people are injured in Syria in conflict-related violence. International NGO Safety Organization (INSO) reports there were 8,656 attacks using explosive weapons in Syria between Sept. 26 and Dec. 28, 2016, accounting for 72% of reported attacks—an average of 94 bombing or shelling incidents a day.
This practice shows no signs of abating. A study by IRIN founds that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas caused 48% of civilian casualties in 2012, a figure that rose to 83% in 2016.
And it’s fueling the mass displacement of Syrians, according to Handicap International’s September 2016 report QASEF: Escaping the bombs. More than 11 million Syrians have been affected—half of the country’s population. The testimonies gathered by Handicap International reveal that terrorized Syrians fleeing successive attacks are displaced up to 25 times before they find a safe refuge. Repeated displacement causes extreme hardship and serious psychological distress.
“Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflicts,” says Anne Héry, director of Advocacy and Institutional Relations at Handicap International. “Explosive weapons, including illegal weapons such as cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines, are used in populated areas and have a devastating impact on civilians. The international community must firmly and systematically condemn these practices.”
In Syria and neighboring countries, Handicap International’s teams have witnessed the suffering and trauma of Syrian refugees and displaced people. Since the start of its operations in 2012, staff have provided assistance to some 600,000 people and their families. The organization has fit Syrians with nearly 10,000 artificial limbs and braces, and provided psychological support to more than 20,000 people. More than 85,000 people have benefited from physical and functional rehabilitation sessions. To prevent injury and death, risk education teams have taught more than 400,000 people to spot and avoid weapons.
- As a member of the INEW (International Network on Explosive Weapons) coalition, Handicap International has drawn up a political declaration on ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It is calling on States to sign it and support it.
- Handicap International launched a global campaign on March 15, to collect one million signatures to “Stop bombing civilians.” The signatures will be presented to policy makers in September 2018, urging the international community to strongly condemn this practice and to bring it to an end.
- Click here to download Handicap International’s latest crisis situation report.
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ABOUT HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 35 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since its founding, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.