Report: Despite fewer dangers, civilians hurt by cluster bombs rose in 2020

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Sept. 15 (UPI) — Thousands of cluster bombs around the world, many of which are left over for years after fighting stops, killed and injured more civilians in 2020, according to a report on Wednesday — even though monitors and activists say there was some progress in eliminating the weapons.

The Cluster Munition Coalition, a global organization working to eliminate cluster bombs worldwide, said in its annual report that there were 360 known casualties last year that resulted from the weapons.

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The figure is an increase over 317 casualties in 2019 and 277 in 2018, the coalition said.

“In the last year, cluster munition attacks killed and wounded civilians going about their everyday activities, and unexploded submunitions remain an enduring threat,” Loren Persi, an editor of the report, said in a statement.

“But, despite challenges, progress was reported in the work to clear and return land to communities, to provide focused risk education to those most under threat, and to deliver on the obligation of providing assistance to victims.”

The casualties last year occurred mainly in developing nations, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Worldwide, the weapons can be found in more than two dozen countries, the coalition said.

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The alliance has been tracking cluster bomb casualties for the past decade since the global Cluster Ban Treaty was enacted in 2010. More than 100 nations and states have ratified the ban, but several have not signed it.

Wednesday’s report said most of the civilian casualties are found in the areas that are not party to the treaty.

Despite the increase in dead and injured civilians, the 110-page report says, progress toward eliminating cluster bombs in the fields and stockpiles elsewhere saw a significant leap in 2020.

“Stockpile destruction is one of the convention’s success stories as to date; a total of 36 [member states] have destroyed 99% of all cluster munitions stocks declared,” the coalition said. “In the last year alone, Bulgaria, Peru and Slovakia destroyed a total of 2,273 cluster munitions and more than 52,000 submunitions.

“In addition, in 2020, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Slovakia destroyed their respective stocks of cluster munitions retained for research and training purposes.”

Cluster munitions can be used by land or by air and they usually contain multiple explosions and scatter shrapnel over wide areas. Many fail to detonate, are difficult to recover and are often left over for years after a conflict has ended.

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The report says in 2020 cases when the victim’s age was known, nearly 44% were children.

“The real number of new casualties is likely to be much higher as many have gone unrecorded due to challenges with data collection,” the coalition noted.