Civilian deaths in conflict plummeted during pandemic, report finds | Conflict and arms

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The number of civilian casualties in conflicts around the world plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report shows.

Last year, an average of 10 civilians a day were reported killed by explosive weapons, compared with 18 in 2019, according to analysis by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based charity.

In all, 8,165 people were reported killed by explosive weapons – artillery shells, rockets, mortar bombs and aerial bombing – across 48 countries and territories last year, of whom 3,668 were civilians, it said. More than 10,500 people were reported injured.

The fall of 43% represents the largest percentage drop in civilian casualties in conflict reported over the past 10 years.

In March last year, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, called for a global ceasefire to allow the respite needed to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

Iain Overton, the director of AOAV, said: “Our data seems to support there being a general decline in deaths and injuries as a consequence of the pandemic. It could be due to less reporting of violence, or it could be due to restrictions due to the pandemic and ceasefires.

“If the pandemic can stop people blowing people up then why can’t states?” he added. “This is proof that man-made violence can be prevented.”

The data was published as nations gather online this week to resume negotiations on a political declaration to strengthen the protection of civilians in urban warfare. About 70 states are expected to take part in the consultations, which begin on 3 March.

Laura Boillot, coordinator of the International Network on Explosive Weapons, an international network of NGOs, said: “What Covid has shown is that when humanity is focused on more pressing issues, it can reduce violence. Why does it have to take a pandemic to stop bombing civilians?”

Last year was the fourth consecutive year that reports of civilian deaths from explosives have declined, largely due to the short-term defeats of Islamist groups such as Isis in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Afghanistan was the deadliest conflict for civilians last year, with 3,490 reported deaths and injuries of civilians from explosives, according to the data. The country overtook Syria, which recorded 3,013 deaths and injuries, for the first time since 2011, when AOAV began gathering data.

Pakistan, Yemen and Libya followed with 684, 683 and 671 civilian casualties reported respectively.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) has reported a “disturbing” rise in the number of civilians killed and injured since the start of peace negotiations in September.

About 43% of recorded civilians killed in 2020 were women and children. More women died in the conflict in 2020 than in any year since Unama began systematic documentation in 2009.

In a report last month, Unama expressed “grave concern” over the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, especially the use of indirect fire, such as artillery shells, mortars and rockets during ground engagements, but also the use of airstrikes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

AOAV’s explosive violence monitoring project records casualties using data from the Londo-based non-profit monitoring agency Airwars, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and reliable English-language media sources.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Civilian deaths in conflict plummeted during pandemic, report finds | Conflict and arms

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