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Cluster Munition Monitor 2023: Unprecedented death and injury tolls

September 5, 2023

Image of destruction in Kiev

© T. Mayer / Humanity & Inclusion

The 2023 Cluster Munition Monitor reports the worst carnage from cluster munition injuries and deaths since the annual report launched in 2010. Cluster munitions killed or injured 1,172 people in 2022, an increase of more than 750% over the total reported in 2021 (149). Civilians accounted for 95% of all casualties.

This shocking and unprecedented figure is overwhelmingly due to repeated cluster munition use across Ukraine. The conference of State Parties to the Oslo Convention, which bans cluster munitions, takes place September 11-14, in Geneva. Humanity & Inclusion is calling on states to systematically condemn the use of these barbaric weapons and to hold those using or transferring cluster munitions accountable. 

The 2023 Cluster Munition Monitor assesses the implementation of the Oslo Convention, which bans the use, production, transfer, and stockpile of cluster munitions. Today’s report covers the period from January to December 2022. The report also covers the first half of 2023, when information is available.

Unprecedented death toll and injuries

1,172 new cluster munition casualties were recorded across eight countries in 2022: Azerbaijan, Iraq, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Myanmar, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen. This is by far the highest annual number of people killed and injured from cluster munitions that the Monitor has recorded since it first began reporting in 2010. Even so, this estimate is probably an undercount.

This alarming finding is primarily due to Russia’s extensive use of cluster munitions across Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have also used cluster munitions. 916 cluster munition casualties were recorded in Ukraine in 2022, including 890 casualties directly due to cluster munition attacks. Many casualties from other attacks could have gone unrecorded.

“The extensive attacks by Russian forces using banned cluster munitions not only harmed civilians, but they also damaged healthcare facilities, factories, and homes,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “Ukrainian forces also reportedly used these devastating weapons. As is historically the case with cluster munitions, the vast majority of casualties from these indiscriminate weapons are civilians, and the majority (71%) were children. We know that even if efforts are made to remove the weapons from today’s battlefields, many more will be injured and killed in the years to come.”


Indiscriminate, civilian-hungry weapon by nature

Civilians made up 95% of all cluster munition casualties in 2022.

In 2021, no casualties were reported from cluster munition attacks at all.  That year casualties were entirely caused by previously deployed weapons. Of the total number of new casualties recorded, 987 were caused by new attacks and 185 casualties resulted from cluster munition remnants, which had failed to explode on impact and became de-facto landmines.

Casualties from new cluster munition attacks were recorded in three countries in 2022: Myanmar (for the first time), Syria (84), and Ukraine. As up to 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, heavy contamination by cluster munition remnants poses a serious threat for local population in affected countries. Casualties resulting instead from cluster munition remnants in seven countries included: Yemen (95), Iraq (41), Ukraine (26), Lao PDR (9), Syria (6), Lebanon (5), Azerbaijan (3).

U.S. decision to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine

In July 2023, the U.S. Government decided to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, in response to that Government’s request. The U.S., Ukraine and Russia are not parties to the Oslo convention, signed by 123 States, that forbids the use, production, stockpile and transfer of clusters.

Humanity & Inclusion opposes that decision, because it sets a dangerous precedent. It is unacceptable and should be clearly condemned by any states parties to the Convention.

“Humanity & Inclusion condemns the U.S. transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine in the strongest terms,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “Cluster munitions are historically among the most harmful weapons to civilians. Once deployed, they, like antipersonnel landmines, cannot discriminate between a military and civilian target and pose a grave risk as they cause casualties long after a conflict has ended. States parties must defend and apply the Oslo Convention and all other texts relating to international humanitarian law. The U.S. decision also strongly undermines efforts to eradicate this barbaric weapon. No situation or context justifies the use of cluster munitions. The United States itself has not used cluster munitions in more than two decades and it is truly regrettable that the United States is now on the wrong side of history concerning the transfer of these weapons to another non-signatory nation."

Survivors and their families have a right to aid

A full 817 people were injured by cluster munitions in 2022: That is to say that the injured represent 70% of the total of cluster munitions casualties in 2022. 

Those who survive submunition explosions often experience severe and multiple injuries, including damage to vital organs as well as the loss of hands and feet. Eye injuries are also prevalent. Such accidents also often cause psychological trauma. Survivors endure a loss of dignity and self-esteem and suffer discrimination. The Oslo Treaty mandates that all states parties assist victims. Humanity & Inclusion supports survivors and their families with programs across more than 30 countries.

Stockpile destruction and contamination globally

Since the Convention came into force on August 1, 2010, 41 countries - 38 States Parties, two signatories, and one non-signatory - have destroyed 1.5 million cluster munitions in their stockpile, or a total of 179 million submunitions. This represents 99% of all cluster munitions declared by State Parties.

However, 26 nations and three regions remain contaminated by submunition remnants worldwide.

Cluster munitions

Cluster munitions (also known as cluster bombs) are weapons containing several hundred mini-bombs called submunitions. Designed to be scattered over large areas, they inevitably fall in civilian neighborhoods. Up to 40% do not explode on impact. Like antipersonnel landmines, they can be triggered by the slightest contact, killing and maiming people during and long after conflicts. As they make no distinction between civilians, civilian property, nor military targets, the use of cluster bombs violate the rules of international humanitarian law.

The Oslo Convention, which bans the use, storage, transfer, production and sale of cluster munitions, opened for signature in December 2008. Currently, 123 countries are signatories to this convention. Humanity & Inclusion co-founded the Cluster Munition Coalition, a group that played a major role in bringing about the Oslo Convention. The Coalition continues campaigning for the Convention’s universalization and implementation.  


About Humanity & Inclusion

Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 41 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and other groups experiencing situations of extreme vulnerability, our action and testimony focus on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion (formerly Handicap International) has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergencies. There are eight national associations within the network (Germany, Belgium, Canada, United States, France, Luxembourg, United Kingdom and Switzerland), working tirelessly to mobilize resources, co-manage projects and increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.”


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