(London, 24 November 2013) New research published by Oxford Research Group shows that the primary cause of death for children during the conflict in Syria has been the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Director of Article 36, Thomas Nash said: “This new research adds weight to the growing calls for action to end the use of heavy explosive weapons in areas where civilians are present.”

The report, “Stolen Future: the hidden toll of child casualties in Syria,” draws on four different casualty recording databases for the conflict in Syria and provides analysis of the number of casualties, their identities as well as how, when and where they have been killed. The study notes that: “By far the primary cause of death reported for children was explosive weapons, killing 7,557 (71%) of the 10,586 children whose specific cause of death was recorded.”

The reports notes that these are “children killed by bombs and shells in their homes, in their communities and in day-to-day activities such as waiting in bread lines or attending school.” The most common explosive weapons used in Syria have included mortars, artillery shells, large unguided rockets and aircraft bombs.

The report notes that the use of explosive weapons has not only maimed and killed children, but has disrupted healthcare and education, caused long-term psychological trauma and prevented distribution of humanitarian aid. The shelling and bombardment of towns and cities has displaced children from their homes and left them vulnerable to abuse by separating them from their communities.

At the United Nations, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict noted in her 2013 report to the UN General Assembly that: “the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has been shown to result in a pattern of harm affecting children and their families.”

Action on Armed Violence, which monitors the impact of explosive weapons around the world, has reported in June that 93% of deaths from explosive weapons in Syria were civilians. The organisation also noted that around the world in 2012, 91% of people killed and injured by explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians.

Article 36 coordinates the International Network on Explosive Weapons, a group of non-governmental organisations including Save the Children and Action on Armed Violence, that was set up in 2011 to promote action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Since its establishment around 30 countries have explicitly acknowledged the humanitarian problem of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Expert discussions are now underway, including with representatives of the military, humanitarian organisations and others to develop policies and practices that will curb the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. In September Chatham House and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs hosted the first expert meeting, during which the ICRC noted its intention to host an expert meeting on the topic in late 2014 or early 2015.

The latest report of the UN Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict reiterates the call for an end to the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects and asks the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to convene focused discussions on this topic.

Contact: Thomas Nash, Director, Article 36, UK mobile 07711926730

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