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UNICEF Highlights Horrific Impact of Cluster Munitions on Children as Governments Meet to Decide on Treaty Banning the Weapon

NEW YORK, 19 May 2008 - The Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions begins today as over 100 governments negotiate an international treaty to ban the indiscriminate weapon.

Research has shown that roughly 40 per cent of victims of cluster bombs are children who are injured or killed long after direct hostilities end. Children are particularly at risk from cluster munitions as they are small and shiny and attract children’s natural curiosity.

By the very nature of the weapon, cluster munitions spread out littering wide areas and rendering them uninhabitable. Bomblets are frequently found in school yards, fields and other areas where children play and explore.

Cluster munitions have been used for over six decades and have contaminated wide areas of countries like Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia for more than 30 years. More recently, they were deployed in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and in 2006 in Southern Lebanon.

Cluster munitions can remain “active” lying in wait for decades. In Laos, on 17 January 2008, nine children were searching around an old bomb crater for little crabs to eat, about 50 metres from their village. Instead, the children found a cluster bomb dating from the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s. It exploded, killing four boys. Five other children were badly injured.

Some 67 per cent of cluster munition casualties in Kosovo were 19 or younger – making children a majority of the casualties in this area.

These examples demonstrate the ongoing and unacceptable threat of cluster munitions, decades after the end of hostilities. If even a small percentage of the world’s known stockpiled cluster munitions — that range in the billions across more than 70 countries — were to be deployed, we would witness human suffering on a scale way beyond that of the landmine crisis.

The current negotiations to ban cluster munitions began in February 2007 in Oslo. The Dublin conference marks a critical stage in the negotiations and UNICEF urges all governments to conclude an international instrument prohibiting cluster munitions which have a horrendous humanitarian, development and human rights impact.

The international treaty under negotiation would prohibit the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions; require the destruction of current stockpiles; and provide for clearance, risk reduction and other risk mitigation activities, as well as victim assistance.

With billions of cluster munitions stockpiled around the world, this treaty could help secure the world for generations to come.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Saira Khan, UNICEF Media, Tel +1-212-326-7224, Email sskhan@unicef.org,




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