Silver Spring, MD--A new report identifies indiscriminate bombings as the overriding factor forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes. Qasef: Escaping the bombing takes an intimate look at the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Based on interviews with Syrian refugees in July 2016, a document review, and expert interviews, the report identifies the large scale use of explosive weapons in populated areas as the most significant cause of the mass displacement of Syrians. More than 10.9 million Syrians have been affected, equivalent to more than half of the country’s population.
Syrians interviewed for the report said they were subject to multiple displacements within Syria—up to 25 times after successive attacks—before seeking refuge abroad. Repeated displacement causes extreme poverty and serious psychological distress.
“War does not justify everything,” says Anne Héry, head of advocacy at Handicap International. “There are international rules that must be enforced, such as the law requiring belligerent parties to protect civilians from the effects of war. Attacks using explosive weapons with a wide-area impact in populated area have indiscriminate effects. All States have a responsibility to ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld and enforced.”
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is the main cause of civilian deaths. In 2012, according to a study released by the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) and cited in the report, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas was responsible for 48% of civilian casualties. That figure rose to 83% in 2016.
Some weapons, such as barrel bombs and elephant rockets are indiscriminate by nature. Their lack of precision causes large numbers of civilian casualties. The report also underlines the seriousness of the injuries caused by these attacks: 47% of people injured by explosive weapons have complex fractures.
“Combined with the absence of appropriate medical care and psychological support in Syria, this practice has had a devastating effect on people’s lives,” Héry notes. “With more than 1.5 million casualties in Syria, an entire generation is going to suffer the sequelae [of these injuries] for many years to come.”
Syrians who were not directly affected by the attacks are also forced to flee in order to rebuild their lives: bombing destroys key infrastructure (homes, hospitals, water and electricity networks, etc.) and social and economic life.
“Weapons clearance will take decades in Syria, which is highly contaminated by explosive remnants of war,” Héry adds. “The parties to the conflict must immediately end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, particularly weapons with a wide-area impact. The international community must take action against this practice, which has become the rule in the Syrian conflict.”
In September 2015, Handicap International launched an international campaign to end attacks on civilians. The organization is calling on States to sign a political declaration to bring an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and to recognize the suffering of civilians. To this end, the organization has co-founded the INEW (International Network on Explosive Weapons) coalition of international and national organizations.
Qasef: Escaping the bombing is based on interviews recorded in Jordan in July 2016, with Syrian refugees from Aleppo, Damascus and the surrounding region, Deraa and Homs, as well as a review of existing literature on the crisis, and interviews with managers of international organizations.
Handicap International and the Syrian crisis
Handicap International has helped more than 600,000 people since the launch of the organization’s Syrian crisis operations in 2012. Teams provide physical rehabilitation services and psychological support, and distribute emergency aid to meet the basic needs of casualties, people with disabilities, and vulnerable individuals, in particular. Handicap International also issues awareness-raising and safety messages targeted at local populations to prevent accidents caused by explosive remnants of war.
Previous Handicap International reports about the Syrian Crisis
- Syria, A mutilated future (June 2016)
- Kobani: a city of rubble and unexploded devices (May 2015)
- The Use of Explosive Weapons in Syria: A Time Bomb in the Making (May 2015)
- Hidden victims of the Syrian crisis: disabled, injured and older refugees (2014)
To link your audience to Handicap International’s Syrian crisis donation form, visit http://www.handicap-international.us/helpsyria
To share the Stop Bombing Civilians petition, visit http://www.handica p-international.us/stop_bombing_civilians
Handicap International and five other aid agencies have condemned a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a hospital supported by Doctors without Borders (MSF) in Abs, in Hajja governorate in Yemen. Oxfam, Care, Handicap International, Mercy Corps, Intersos and Save the Children called for an independent investigation into Monday's attack, the fourth on an MSF-supported facility in Yemen in less than a year that comes just two days after an airstrike on a school killed ten children and injured 28 others in the Saada Governorate.
Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, Oxfam Yemen Country Director, said: “This was a horrific attack killing sick and injured people and the medical staff desperately trying to help them. The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye as the most vulnerable suffer in this terrible conflict. We urge all parties to the conflict to reach a political solution to stop the violence and put an end to the bloodshed."
Edward Santiago, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director, said: “The Saudi Arabia-led Coalition claims to have taken measures to prevent and end grave violations against children but they are clearly not working if children continue to be killed and injured and schools and hospitals attacked.”
“These airstrikes on a school, then a hospital, have devastating consequences for civilians,” says Anne Héry, head of advocacy and institutional relations. “This is totally unacceptable. Handicap International is demanding an investigation into these attacks and is once again calling on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to immediately refrain from launching airstrikes against civilians.”
As violence resumed last week following the failure of the recent peace talks in Kuwait, civilians continue to be deliberately put at the center of the conflict. The escalation of attacks and the closure of Yemen’s main airport are putting millions of people at risk.
Air strikes were identified as responsible for 60% of the 785 children killed and 1,168 wounded in Yemen last year. In recent weeks civilian casualties have continued to mount with the UN recording 272 deaths and 543 injuries in the four months from April to August this year.
More than 2.8 million people have fled their homes because of the daily bombardments and shelling since the beginning of the conflict.
The UN and human rights organizations report widespread allegations of breaches of the laws of war in Yemen by all parties to the conflict.
A Handicap International-supported hospital in the governorate of Deraa was hit by an air strike on Sunday 31 July, killing and maiming several people, including hospital staff.Read more
Death Sentence to Civilians: The Long-Term Impact of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas in Yemen (June 2020)
In five years of war, Yemen has experienced every manner of explosive weapons—aerial bombs and missiles, artillery, mortars, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and much more. The explosions destroy bridges, ports, roads, hospitals, water systems, and generate long lasting civilian harm. The Humanity & Inclusion report highlights six case studies, showing the extent and impact of such bombings. Download the report, "Death Sentence to Civilians: The Long-Term Impact of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas in Yemen."
Whenever a weapon is fired, dropped, launched, or projected, there is always a chance it will not explode and become an unexploded ordnance (UXO). This chance (known as the "failure rate") is highest when a munition's fuse fails due to age, design flaws, or human error during the fusing procedure. This report pulls data and experience from humanitarian demining groups including Humanity & Inclusion, MAG, and Norwegian People's Aid, and supports the drafting of a political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas. The two-page brief may be downloaded here.
The Waiting List: Addressing the immediate and long-term needs of victims of explosive weapons in Syria (September 2019)
This report looks at the challenges linked to the use of explosive weapons in the Syrian context for the provision of adequate immediate assistance and to plan for mid- to long-term assistance to the victims of explosive violence, to ensure their full recovery and inclusion into society. Read more here.
The executive summary may be downloaded by clicking here.
This brochure gives an overview of HI's history which is closely intertwined with the fight against armed violence, including the use of anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war. It provides an outline of our unique expertise in demining and land clearance, risk education, and victim assistance. Read more here.
This report features in-depth interviews of more than 200 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who confirm and detail the devastating and lasting social and economic effects of the use of explosive weapons. Over half of the refugees interviewed were displaced within Syria before fleeing to Lebanon, experiencing consequences ranging from personal injury to the death of one of more family members, the destruction of homes, infrastructure and/or livelihoods. The report finds women are most vulnerable. Read more here.
This report identifies indiscriminate bombing of civilians as the overriding factor forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes. Based on interviews with Syrian refugees in July 2016, a document review, and expert interviews, the report identifies the large scale use of explosive weapons in populated areas as the most significant cause of the mass displacement of Syrians. More than 10.9 million Syrians have been affected, equivalent to more than half of the country’s population. Syrians interviewed for the report said they were subject to multiple displacements within Syria—up to 25 times after successive attacks—before seeking refuge abroad. Repeated displacement causes extreme poverty and serious psychological distress. Read more here.
As a political declaration on the prevention of civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons is successfully moving forward, civil society, national and international organizations continue working alongside governments to ensure that the declaration will be comprehensive, and will effectively respond to the expectations of those who have suffered from the consequences of the use of explosive weapons.
With the aim of contributing to the Political Declaration process, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Humanity & Inclusion launched an initiative with civil society and international organizations along with survivors to develop a common understanding on the needs and the rights of victims of explosive weapons. They developed recommendations regarding victim assistance provisions in the future political declaration, which will be presented during a side event, on the 5th. Read more here.
Kenya: An impact assessment of the armed violence reduction project in North Western Keny (Jan 2015)
The North Rift Valley communities suffer from high levels of insecurity. Armed violence is fed by the proliferation and use of illegal arms related to inter-ethnic rivalries, scare resources competition, and uncontrolled arms circulation. In Aug. 2014, Humanity & Inclusion launched an armed violence reduction project in the Pokot West and Trans-Nzoia Counties, focused on the reduction of the risk factors and armed violence motivations. Alongside its Kenyan partners, Justice and Peace Center and Free Pentecostal Fellowship of Kenya, we worked to enhance the perception of security among the communities, and to establish a way for the communities and security agents to both discuss matters, and gain confidence in one another. This report evaluates the impact of the project's first five months. View the report here.
The Gaza Strip population was exposed to a long-term, and acute military operation for 51 days during the summer of 2014.
The whole population was affected in one way or another. This report sheds light on the emergency response services delivered to the different beneficiaries.
This report details the conclusions of a one year study into the relationship between armed violence and disability. The study was based on data collected from police forces and hospitals, and a survey conducted between May 2011 and April 2012 in four towns or provinces of countries particularly affected by this scourge: Medellin, Colombia; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Karamoja, Uganda; and Peshawar, Pakistan. View the report here.