Massive War Study Shows 91% Of All Global Casualties From Explosives Were Civilians

On the heels of Israel’s recent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, a London-based charity revealed Tuesday that civilians accounted for 91% of people killed or injured when explosive weapons were used in populated areas worldwide from 2011 to 2020.

The new Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) report (pdf) is based on data collected as part of the group’s Explosive Violence Monitoring Project. It emphasizes that the data, taken from English-language media reporting, “is not an attempt to capture every single casualty of every incident around the world.”

However, the report provides insight on the devastating impact of using explosive weapons—including air-dropped bombs, artillery shells, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and mortars—in densely populated areas and demands global commitments to end such violence.

“Since the monitor began, AOAV has recorded the appalling suffering caused across the globe by both manufactured and improvised weapons,” the report says. “We call on states and other users to commit politically to stop using explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. The harm recorded over the last 10 years and reflected in this report illustrates the stark urgency needed for a political declaration detailing such a commitment.”

AOAV tallied 357,370 deaths or injuries in 28,879 incidents across 123 countries and territories—and at least 262,413 of those casualties or 73% were civilians. Overall, explosive weapons killed 155,118 people—of which 92,588 or 60% were civilians—and injured 202,252 people, of which 169,825 or 84% were civilians.

As the report details:

Civilians were most at risk when explosive weapons were used in populated areas—a well-established pattern of harm.

60% of all recorded incidents took place in populated areas. In those attacks, AOAV recorded 263,798 casualties. Civilians accounted for 91% (238,892) of those killed or injured in populated areas. This compares to 25% of victims being reported as civilians when explosive weapons were used in areas not identified as highly populated areas.

AOAV executive director Iain Overton told The Guardian the report clearly demonstrates that “when explosive weapons are used in towns and cities, civilians will be harmed.” That conclusion, he added, was “as true as it is today in Gaza as it was a decade ago in Iraq and beyond.”

The highest numbers of civilian deaths and injuries were recorded in Syria (77,534), Iraq (56,316), Afghanistan (28,424), Pakistan (20,719), and Yemen (16,645). Though Gaza and Lebanon ranked ninth and 13th in terms of civilian casualties by numbers, they had the highest percentages of deaths and injuries endured by civilians—90% and 91%, respectively.


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