Unicef Logo and the text: Children Under Threat. The State of The World's Children 2005.

Patrick Andrade

Explosive remnants of war

Even after a conflict is over, children are often threatened by what it leaves behind. Explosive remnants of war, including abandoned explosives and weapons, landmines and unexploded ordnance kill and maim thousands of children each year. Explosive remnants of war can prevent access to fields or wells, clinics or schools for whole communities, causing deprivation long after the official end of war. Families may be condemned to live in temporary settlements because of the continuing presence of mines in their communities. Landmines alone claim between 15,000 and 20,000 new victims each year. Two thirds of the 65 countries that suffered new mine casualties in the period between the years 2002 and 2003 had not experienced active conflict in that period. A study by Human Rights Watch found that the use of cluster munitions by coalition forces in populated areas of Iraq was one of the major causes of civilian casualties in 2003.

Most victims of explosive remnants of war are men, often farmers. But children are especially at risk: they tend to be curious about strange objects, and may be attracted to the colourful designs of some butterfly mines and cluster bombs. In addition, many children are responsible for herding animals and fetching water, which involves traversing large tracts of countryside that may include mined areas; they are also less likely than adults to understand signs marking minefields.

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“some conflicts leave behind dreadful nightmares that remain as scars on the  minds of the sufferers and this in turn affects the society in which these frightened people live...”
girl, 14, India

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Number of the world’s 20 poorest countries that have suffered a major civil war in the past 15 years: 16.

© UNICEF 2004