Casualties and Victim Assistance

Last updated: 15 December 2014

Casualties Overview

All known casualties by end 2013

917 mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties (433 killed; 472 injured; 12 unknown)

Casualties in 2013

201 (2012: 37)

2013 casualties by outcome

201 killed; unknown injured (2012: 6 killed; 29 injured; 2 unknown)

2013 casualties by item type

9 cluster submunition; 27 ERW; 165 unspecified mine types

(see more details below on 1,001 cluster munition casualties)

In 2013, 201 fatalities were identified due to mines, cluster submunitions, and other ERW in the Syrian Arab Republic.[1] Detailed data on fatalities was collected and disaggregated according to the weapons involved by the Violation Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) and the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).[2] The SNHR also documented the number of people injured by cluster munitions, many of whom were wounded by unexploded submunitions that are scattered widely throughout many areas of the country.[3] Persons injured were not, however, disaggregated in the data.

Since internal conflict began in 2011, the numbers of casualties identified annually in Syria represent a significant increase from previous years. In 2010, no casualties were identified in Syria, and in 2009 a single antivehicle mine casualty was reported.[4]

In addition to the casualties reported in Syria, included in the total of mine/ERW casualties for Turkey for 2013 were six mine casualties from Syria (two killed and four injured) in incidents in the Turkish border minefields while crossing from Syria to Turkey.[5] Eight casualties among people fleeing from Syria to Turkey were recorded in 2012.[6] As of November 2014, at least nine Syrian casualties were reported in Turkish border minefields, making up almost half of the total casualties recorded in Turkey in the first 11 months of the year (19). As in 2013, all were reported to be civilians, with three civilians killed and another six injured by landmines at the Turkish-Syrian border while escaping from the conflict in Syria. At least four of the Syrian border casualties in Turkey 2014 were children.[7]

The total number of mine/ERW casualties recorded in Syria between 1967 and the end of 2013 is at least 917 mine/ERW casualties (433 killed; 472 injured; 12 unknown).[8] In the absence of a national casualty data collection mechanism, it is probable that there were also unrecorded casualties before the beginning of internal armed conflict in 2011.

Cluster munition casualties

For 2013, the Monitor received reports of at least 1,001 cluster munition casualties in Syria; at least 151 people were recorded as killed and some 850 people were injured. Among those people who died, 142 were killed by cluster munition air strikes and shelling (direct use of cluster munitions) and another nine fatalities were recorded from incidents involving unexploded submunitions.

The number of casualties due to strikes and unexploded submunitions is likely much higher. Collection of data was ongoing and efforts to gather details on casualties were hampered by the intensity of the continuing conflict. The SNHR reported that the number of casualties was believed to be far higher than presented in the available statistics.[9]

In 2012, according to data from VDC and SNHR,[10] 113 people were reported as killed (including four due to unexploded submunitions) and some 470 people injured by cluster munitions.[11]

At least 15 casualties from unexploded submunitions have been recorded from the 1970s through the end of 2013, including one in 2012 and nine in 2013.[12]

The SNHR updated reporting of cluster munition casualties for 2014 through September, finding that at least 49 persons were killed and 250 injured during cluster munition strikes; another 15 people were killed by cluster munitions remnants. The SNHR reporting includes several detailed accounts of cluster munition use.[13]

Victim Assistance

There is no current estimate of the total number of mine/ERW survivors living in Syria.

Handicap International (HI) noted “a patent lack of immediate rehabilitation and psychosocial relief” despite the rising number of conflict-injured people within Syria and those fleeing to neighboring countries.[14]

Insecurity and conflict in Syria affected access to essential medical interventions and medical equipment. There were severe shortages of medicine and medical supplies, as well as the inability of many health workers to access their workplaces. These difficulties were exacerbated by overall disruptions to the health system. A lack of fuel and cuts in electricity forced many hospitals to operate at reduced capacity. A continuously growing number of patients also strained the limited health resources available.[15] Medical personnel and hospitals were deliberately targeted and access to medical services was denied. The attacks on hospitals and clinics further reduced the provision of basic assistance to injured persons.[16] According to reports by the Ministry of Health, 57% of public hospitals were affected, of which 20% were damaged, and 37% were out of service. Trauma injuries remained high-priority needs.[17]

The ICRC reported that health ministry hospitals and other health facilities, particularly the National Red Crescent Society’s mobile health units, provided emergency medical care, inpatient treatment, and primary healthcare to injured people using ICRC-donated medical supplies. However, support for casualty care reached areas under the control of armed groups on only four occasions because of Syrian government restrictions as well the constant insecurity due to the conflict.[18]

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for assisting persons with disabilities and worked through dedicated charities and organizations to provide assistance. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and seeks to integrate them into the public sector workforce.[19]

Syria ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 10 July 2009. In September 2013, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities gave a statement with regard to Syria’s need to fulfill its obligations under the CRPD while calling for humanitarian agencies to be “allowed to operate without restrictions throughout Syria” to assist persons with disabilities “including measures for those persons with disabilities among refugees and the internally displaced.”[20]

Assistance to Syrian refugees

In Iraq, healthcare centers and hospitals in the Kurdistan region were “overwhelmed” by the number of refugees in need entering from Syria during 2013.[21] In Lebanon, “the influx of Syrian refugees to different Lebanese territories including the contaminated areas results in an increase in mine/ERW incidents.”[22] A number of UN agencies, as well as national and international NGOs, have initiated programs and interventions that directly support the Ministry of Public Health “to try and relieve some of the burden on Lebanon’s health system.”[23]

HI’s emergency coordinator for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan reported a high ratio of injuries leading to amputation and also spinal cord injuries, “approximately double the ratio that what HI are used to seeing in other crises.”[24] HI also reported that 88% of the Syrian refugees interviewed with injuries related to the conflict, who received services from HI, reported that before receiving HI assistance they had not had adequate access to rehabilitation.[25]

Initial emergency medical care for Syrian refugees injured on the border with Turkey was provided in the Suruç Public Hospital. Depending on their medical needs, in some cases refugee mine survivors were also be transferred to the Şanlıurfa Mehmet Akif İnan Training and Research Hospital.[26]

Beginning in June 2013, Bulgaria experienced a large number of Syrian refugees seeking entry into the EU via Turkey. Bulgaria's immigration authorities were ill-prepared and severely underfunded to cope with the demand.[27] Bulgaria has a responsibility to ensure access to medical and psychological care for asylum seekers, including specialized care for people with disabilities. However, such care was not systematically provided for Syrian asylum seekers.[28]

[1] Email from Amir Kazkaz, Database Management Division, Violation Documentation Center in Syria (VDC), 14 April 2014; casualty data from the VDC database; and casualty data sent by email from Fadel Abdul Ghani, Director, Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), 28 April 2014.

[2] Email from Amir Kazkaz, VDC, 14 April 2014; casualty data from the VDC database; and casualty data sent by email from Fadel Abdul Ghani, SNHR, 28 April 2014.

[3] According the SNHR “most of the injured were wounded by the cluster bombs when they passed near it, touched it…some of them were injured while trying to disarm it.” Email from Fadel Abdul Ghani, SNHR, 25 July 2014.

[4] Email from Dr. Hosam Doughouz, Health Officer, Quneitra Health Directorate, 12 May 2010.

[5] These casualties were included in the 2013 annual total for Turkey, not in the total for Syria. See ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Turkey: Casualties and Victim Assistance,” 2 December 2014.

[6] These casualties were included in the 2012 annual total for Turkey, not in the total for Syria. See ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Turkey: Casualties and Victim Assistance,” 25 November 2013.

[7] Casualty data from media scanning for January to September 2014. Sent by email from Muteber Öğreten, Initiative of a Mine-Free Turkey (IMFT), 25 November 2014.

[8]Citizen Injured from Israel Left-over Mine Explosion in Quneitra,” SANA (Quneitra), 6 May 2011. In the article, Omar al-Heibi, head of the board of the General Association for Rehabilitation of Mine-caused Injuries, states that there have been a total of 660 mine casualties (220 killed; 440 injured) as of May 2011, including a man injured in 2011.

[9] “Despite the great difficulty in even getting an approximate number of people injured by the use of cluster munitions by the government forces, the estimates of the team of SNHR refer to more than 1470 people injured.” SNHR, “Victims of Cluster Munitions in Syria,” 2 February 2014, p. 6; SNHR, “Three Year Harvest,” 31 March 2014; and casualty data by sent email from Fadel Abdul Ghani, SNHR, 28 April 2014.

[10] Email from Amir Kazkaz, VDC, 14 April 2014; casualty data from the VDC database; and casualty data sent by email from Fadel Abdul Ghani, SNHR, 28 April 2014. The two data sets were analyzed by the Monitor and duplicate casualty data removed to create a unique data set.

[11] Previously through media monitoring, the Monitor had identified 165 casualties from cluster munitions strikes for 2012.

[12] Handicap International (HI), Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 132.

[13] SNHR, “The Syrian Regimes Cluster Attacks in 2014 (25 January–25 September 2014),” 18 October 2014.

[15] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Syrian Arab Republic: Health Sector Update (September 2013),” 9 September 2013; and ICRC, “Annual Report 2013,” Geneva, 2014, p. 506.

[17] UN, “Syrian Arab Republic Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) January - December 2013 (Revised),” prepared in coordination with the Syrian Government, UN System, and other humanitarian actors in Syria, 5 June 2013, p. 24.

[18] ICRC, “Annual Report 2013,” Geneva, 2014, p. 504.

[19] United States Department of State, “2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Syria,” Washington, DC, 17 April 2013.

[20] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Persons with disabilities ‘forgotten victims’ of Syria’s conflict,” Geneva, 17 September 2013.

[21] Cathy Otten, “Syrian refugees suffer as aid agencies in Iraq grapple with sudden influx,” IRIN (Sulaymaniyah),

21 August 2013.

[23] World Health Organization, “Increasing health vulnerability with over 780 000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” 14

October 2013.

[24] HI, “Injured and disabled people forgotten in ‘highly disabling’ Syria crisis,” 3 December 2013.

[25] HI, “New study shows legacy of disability from explosive weapon use in Syria,” January 2014.

[26] Interview with Reşit Doğru, Chairperson of Suruç Branch of the Trade Union for Public Employees in the Health Sector, Suruç, 18 November 2014.

[27] Migration Policy Centre, "Bulgaria: Stories from  the Voenna Rampa camp," undated.

[28] Medicins Sans Frontieres, “Bulgaria: Syrian Refugees Face Appalling Conditions,” 21 November 2013.