The Reverberating Effects of Explosive Weapon Use in Syria

Two  girls in Aleppo walk home from school alongside a mound of rubble Two girls in Aleppo walk home from school alongside a mound of rubble © Jordi Bernabeu Farrùs (Flickr)

5 March 2019

This is a presentation of “The Reverberating Effects of Explosive Weapon Use in Syria”, released by Action On Armed Violence in January 2019.

For nearly a decade, Action On Armed Violence (AOAV) has monitored the harms caused by explosive weapons on civilians in populated areas. In January 2019, AOAV released a report detailing the degrading impact of explosive weapons on Syria’s economy, health, environment, society and culture. ‘The Reverberating Effects of Explosive Weapons Use in Syria’ stands among a series of efforts to understand the long-term impact of this crisis and develop sustainable solutions.

What is now an increasingly devastating civil war and major humanitarian crisis, began in 2011 as a peaceful uprising against Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. Today, the conflict in Syria continues to escalate. In fact, AOAV noted that in December 2017, Syria overtook Iraq as the country most impacted by explosive violence. While AOAV recorded a staggering number of civilian deaths by explosive weapons, given the protracted and unprecedented nature of crises, “the number of casualties from explosive violence in Syria is actually much higher than [their] methodology can capture.” Therefore, to thoroughly report the harms of explosive violence in Syria, AOAV performed 50 interviews with experts, academics, NGOs and UN personnel.

AOAV prefaced their report by detailing the historical significance of Syria’s most targeted cities, comparing the types of explosive weapons used in the Syrian conflict and ranking the perpetrators of explosive violence based on their responsibility for civilian casualties. Several interesting findings emerged from these complex categories. For instance, while each Syrian city must contend with its own level of impact, Damascus is disproportionality targeted by rebel groups. Additionally, while air-launched explosives result in the most civilian casualties, ground launched and improvised explosive devices (IEDS) also account for a significant amount of casualties. Furthermore, while 13% of perpetrators of explosive violence remain unknown, the Syrian regime is responsible for 49% of casualties in cases where the perpetrator can be identified.

Additionally, the report gave an in-depth analysis of the impact of explosive weapons on specific sectors of Syrian society.  Education and environmental conditions have deteriorated beyond recognition. Also, Syria’s economy has suffered immensely since the onset of the conflict. The country’s GDP has dropped by half, 500,000 plus jobs are lost per year, and seven out of ten Syrians live in extreme poverty.  Notably, explosive weapons have had a profound impact on the health of Syrians and their healthcare facilities. There are currently 11.3 million people in need of need of health assistance, while 60% of their health infrastructure has been destroyed. The result is an unprecedented number of deaths from injuries that are “easily treated and preventable.”  It’s also important to note that while Syria receives several billion dollars in aid, it reaches less than 20% of those in need.

The use of explosive weapons has created a “lost generation of Syrians” in terms of infrastructure, education, health care and displacement. Moreover, the continued devastation has resulted in a “nation-wide sense of distrust and anger”. Rehabilitation from these effects could take decades. Therefore, AOAV has emphasized the need for nuanced funding programs that can adapt to long-term crises. Furthermore, the AOAV has called on states to continue research about the long-term effects of explosive violence, prioritize the psychological rehabilitation of civilians, and ultimately eliminate the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.            


Original report available here:

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