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Ukraine: Civilians will bear the brunt of cluster munitions for decades to come

Press Release | London, 7th July 2023, 11:00 GMT

The Biden Administration has announced that it will transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine, a weapon banned by the 123 countries that signed the Oslo Convention against this barbaric weapon. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is deeply concerned about this decision. 

Since 2014, Russian forces have intensively used cluster munitions in Ukraine, causing the death and injury of hundreds of civilians and untold damage to vital civilian infrastructure. The use of these weapons by Ukrainian forces has also been reported on at least three occasions. 

Each and every use has direct and indirect impacts. The contamination from their use, including from unexploded ordnance, will affect the daily lives of entire Ukrainian communities for decades. Almost all victims of this weapon are civilians. 

"HI condemns the Biden Administration's decision to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine. Cluster munitions are among the most harmful weapons for civilians. They are inherently indiscriminate and pose a grave risk to civilians as they can cause casualties long after the conflict has ended. For the past 40 years, HI has been working alongside victims and survivors of landmines and cluster munitions. For us, the issue is first and foremost a humanitarian one: in addition to its deadly civilian toll, it will hinder physical access to many humanitarian actors, impacting the necessary delivery of aid to civilians in Ukraine." 

HI UK Chief Executive, George Graham 

In response to President Biden’s decision and visit to the UK yesterday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK “discourages” the use of cluster bombs, reiterating that the UK is one of the 123 states that signed the Oslo Convention banning their use. 

He added: “We will continue to do our part to support Ukraine against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion, but we’ve done that by providing heavy battle tanks and most recently long-range weapons and hopefully all countries can continue to support Ukraine.” 

Victims of cluster munitions  

Cluster bombs kill, maim, and cause psychological trauma. They do not discriminate between combatants and civilians. Civilians are always the major victims and account for the vast majority of casualties, making up 90% of all casualties. Half of those people killed and injured were children. 

At least 149 civilians were killed or injured in 2021 by cluster munition remnants according to the 2022 Cluster Munitions Monitor: 37 in Syria, 33 in Iraq, 30 in Laos, etc. The actual casualty total is likely greater due to challenges with casualty recording. The Monitor also reports casualties in 8 other countries and territories including Yemen, Lebanon, Nagorno-Karabakh, Tajikistan, etc. 

Since 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, heavy contamination by cluster munition remnants poses a serious threat to the local population a long time after the conflict has ended. 



* Spokespeople, pictures and case studies are available * 

The Oslo Convention, which bans the use, storage, transfer, production and sale of cluster munitions, was opened for signature in December 2008. Currently, 123 countries are signatories to this convention. 

What is a cluster munition? 

Cluster munitions consist of a container filled with multiple bomblets. When fired, the cluster munition opens in mid-air, releasing and dispersing the bomblets over a wide area. Not all bomblets are designed to detonate on impact. Some have time-delay mechanisms which can be set for hours, days, or even months. This adds an additional hazard because when they explode either after a pre-programmed time or through a self-destruct function, civilians can be injured or killed by the fragmentation. Cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons due to their wide area effect and the potential for unexploded bomblets to remain dangerous long after conflicts have ended. 

HI UK in Ukraine 

From the start of the military conflict in February 2022, HI has been at the forefront of the response effort. HI is currently running both explosive ordnance risk education sessions and conflict protection and preparedness sessions to the most vulnerable and at-risk communities as well as partners.  

Our other activities include the provision of rehabilitation services in hospitals, health centres, collective shelters and orphanages, and mental health and psychological support services for injured and traumatised people. 

Contact our
UK Press Team

Marlène Manning, Media Officer
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: +44 (0)7934 60 29 61
Tel.: +44 (0)870 774 3737