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Humanity & Inclusion became the new name of Handicap International on Jan. 24.

Use of banned weapons reaches all-time high

The worldwide use of banned explosive weapons such as landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) increased significantly in 2015, largely due to intensive and systematic bombing of populated areas in recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine. To mark the international day of landmine and cluster munition awareness, April 4, Handicap International is calling on the international community to strongly condemn this practice, and for an immediate end to the use of these weapons.

According to the latest Landmine Monitor Monitor report, published in November 2016, there was a sharp rise–70%–in the number of new causalities of mines and ERW. In 2015, these weapons killed or injured at least 6,461 people. This time last year, 79% of people killed and injured in such attacks were civilians. As of today, 90% are civilians. 

90% OF VICTIMS ARE CIVILIANS

The Landmine Monitor reported 1,331 casualties of improvised mines, the highest number since the publication of their first annual report in 2000. Handicap International, founder of an international campaign to stop the bombing of civilians is once again calling on States and non-State armed groups to immediately end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, their sale and transfer, to strongly condemn their use under any circumstances and, when they are party to a conflict, to apply pressure on their allies not to use these weapons.

The Syrian conflict has been particularly marked by the heavy and repeated use of explosive weapons. 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.

“In Iraq and Syria, the contamination has reached an unprecedented level, which will require years of mine clearance,” explains Thomas Hugonnier, head of Handicap International’s operations in Iraq. “It also makes risk education sessions vital to teach people to respond in the right way when they come across an explosive device and to avoid the risk of accidents.”

Bombing and shelling in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and other conflict zones leave behind ERW that contaminate large area of land long after a conflict is over. “Bombing and shelling not only has a devastating impact during an attack, they also leave behind large quantities of explosive remnants of war, since a significant proportion of weapons do not explode on impact,” explains Anne Héry, director of advocacy at Handicap International. 

When neighborhoods or villages are covered in ERW, it makes it difficult for society and the economy to return to normal. “These explosive remnants continue to put civilian lives at risk long after the fighting is over," Anne continues. "They pose exactly the same threat as anti-personnel mines." 

According to a mine action rapid assessment published in November 2016 by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) on the level of contamination in Syria, more than 3.6 million Syrians live in areas contaminated by explosive remnants of war and improvised devices. Nearly 1.5 million people live in areas where incidents related to explosive devices have been reported and unexploded devices have been reported in 20% of the territory. 

Handicap International is calling on States and non-State armed groups to immediately end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, their sale and transfer, to strongly condemn their use under any circumstances and, when they are party to a conflict, to apply pressure on their allies not to use these weapons.

NOTES

  • 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.