Cluster Munition Monitor 2018

Casualties Munition Casualties

The Monitor provides the most comprehensive statistics available on cluster munition casualties recorded annually over time, in individual countries, and aggregated globally. It covers casualties from cluster munition remnants and from attacks in 33 countries and three other areas (see table below).

Various country estimates place the total number of cluster munition casualties globally over time as roughly between 56,000 and 86,000. The present total of 21,614 cluster munition casualties actually recorded is far greater than the 13,306 recorded casualties identified before the Convention on Cluster Munitions opened for signature in 2008.[1] The is due in part to additional casualties from the past that have been identified through data collection efforts in the period since the adoption of the convention.

Deplorably, some 3,979 new casualties were recorded from 2009 through 2017, the majority, 77%, from new use in Syria (3,076). During that nine-year period, new cluster munition casualties were also recorded in another 16 countries and three other areas.

The Monitor identified 289 new cluster munition casualties in eight countries and two other areas that occurred during calendar year 2017.[2] These casualties occurred both at the time of attack and later from explosive remnants, principally unexploded submunitions and bomblets. Of the casualties recorded, 71 people were killed, and 218 were injured. However, as in previous years, it is certain that this number does not capture all actual casualties. The real number of new casualties is likely much higher.

Overall, in 2017, 196 people were recorded killed and injured directly due to cluster munition attacks in two countries, Syria and Yemen. Cluster munition remnants caused 93 casualties in eight countries and two other areas.

In a terrible account of the horrific legacy of cluster munitions recorded during the reporting period, a 10-year-old girl picked up a submunition, known in Lao PDR as a “bombie,” while walking to school in the northern province of Xieng Khoang. Thinking it was a toy, she took it to her home where it exploded, killing her and injuring another 11 people, including eight children—the youngest being three years old.[3]

The number of cluster munition casualties in 2017 is a significant drop from the 951 casualties recorded in 2016 (837 from cluster munition strikes and 114 from unexploded submunitions), but it is not possible to determine if this represents a significant downward trend. It is the lowest annual count since 2012, when the Monitor started recording cluster munition casualties from new use in Syria (see chart below).

Beginning in 2012, there have been high casualty numbers due to conflicts in Syria, as well as Yemen and Ukraine, where attacks have occurred. This is a reminder of both the sound reasoning behind, and success of, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. During the negotiations, the ICRC seemingly foretold the current situation: “it is not necessarily clear that the number of victims is so few…One can easily foresee a situation where a government which is not one of the first to ratify a treaty on cluster munitions uses such weapons in a future conflict in their own or even in the territory of a third country. Clearly some of the work on cluster munitions is preventative but it does not mean that victims will disappear.”[4]

All cluster munition casualties over time

The total number of cluster munition casualties for all time recorded by the Monitor reached 21,614 as of the end of 2017. This includes both casualties directly resulting from cluster munition attacks, and casualties from remnants.[5] Data begins from the mid-1960s, due to extensive cluster munitions use by the United States (US) in Southeast Asia, through to the end of 2017.

As many casualties still go unrecorded, a better indicator of the total number of casualties globally over time is roughly 56,000, calculated from various country estimates, with a high-end total of estimates at some 86,000. Global estimates of cluster munition casualties could be as high as 100,000 casualties or more, but are based on extrapolations from limited data samples, which may not be representative of national averages or the actual number of casualties.[6]

Before the Convention on Cluster Munitions opened for signature in 2008, 13,306 recorded cluster munition casualties were identified.[7] Since then, the number of casualties has increased due to updated casualty surveys identifying pre-convention casualties, new casualties from pre-convention remnants, as well as new use of cluster munitions during attacks and the remnants they have left behind. The countries with the highest recorded numbers of cluster munition casualties are Lao PDR (7,697), Syria (3,081), and Iraq (3,039). However, for Iraq, it was estimated that there have been between 5,500 and 8,000 casualties from cluster munitions since 1991.[8] No such estimates are available for casualties in Syria.

In all, 3,979 new casualties were recorded from 2009 through 2017. The vast majority of new casualties recorded in this period were in Syria; new cluster munition casualties were also recorded in another 16 countries and three other areas: States Parties Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Chad, Croatia, Iraq, Lao PDR, and Lebanon; signatory Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); states not party Cambodia, Libya, Serbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Yemen; and three other areas: Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western Sahara.

Cluster munition casualties in Syria and other states and areas 2009–2017


Most recorded casualties to date (17,387) were the result of cluster munition remnants—typically unexploded submunitions. Another 4,226 casualties occurred during cluster munition attacks.[9] Casualties directly caused by attacks have been grossly under-recorded, including among military personnel and other direct participants in conflict, such as combatants in non-state armed groups and militias.[10]

The Convention on Cluster Munitions has successfully increased awareness of the suffering caused by these indiscriminate weapons and set the objective of preventing new casualties. Ultimately, that has resulted in more detailed and swifter reporting of casualties during cluster munition use. Since 2012, casualties recorded from cluster munition attacks have outnumbered those from cluster munition remnants. At the same time, risk education and clearance programs have become more systematic and often more common since the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has contributed to the decrease in casualties from cluster munition remnants in some of the most affected states.

States and other areas where cluster munition casualties have occurred (all time as of 31 December 2017)[11]

States Parties

Non-signatories and other areas




















South Sudan





Sierra Leone












Western Sahara

Note: other areas are indicated in italics.


Because, as noted earlier, thousands of cluster munition casualties from past conflicts have gone unrecorded, particularly casualties that occurred during extensive use in Asia (including Southeast Asia and Afghanistan) and the Middle East (particularly Iraq), there are likely more states with cluster munition victims than the 14 States Parties, 19 signatories, and three other areas listed in the table above.[12]

Casualties in 2017

A total of 289 cluster munition casualties were recorded by the Monitor in eight countries and two other areas in 2017. However, the actual total is certainly higher as available data does not capture all the casualties that occurred.

States and other areas with cluster munition casualties recorded in 2017

State/other area

Casualties from cluster munition attacks





Subtotal casualties from cluster munition attacks


State/other area

Cluster munition remnant casualties











Western Sahara










Subtotal cluster munition remnant casualties


Total cluster munition casualties


Note:States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions are indicated in bold; other areas are indicated in italics.


The 289 casualties recorded in 2017 represent a significant decrease from the 971 casualties recorded in 2016. As has been the case beginning in 2012, the vast majority of annual casualties in 2017 (65%) occurred in Syria.

Casualty recording

Due to the lack of consistency in the availability and disaggregation of data on cluster munition casualties annually, especially during active conflicts, comparisons with previous annual reporting are not believed to be necessarily indicative of definitive trends and specific fluctuations. The totals may be adjusted over time as new information becomes available—as newly available data for all mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties in Syria for past years of the conflict has demonstrated. However, as yet, little retrospective data that is disaggregated by the type of device used has been presented.

It is certain that the actual number of casualties occurring annually continues to be significantly under-reported. Several countries where casualties were reported do not have national casualty surveillance systems and experienced ongoing or intensified conflict throughout 2017, which severely hampered data collection in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Two other countries where conflict prevented adequate data collection, Libya and South Sudan, reported cluster munition casualties in 2016 but not in 2017.

In most countries, the majority of cluster munition casualties for 2017 were reported by mine action centers and clearance operators. However, in the countries with the greatest number of annual casualties recorded, Syria and Yemen, mine action operations were severely curtailed by ongoing conflict. In those two states, cluster munition casualties were mainly identified in information recorded by national and international civil society organizations and NGOs, as well as in media reporting. In 2017, fewer sources were reporting data for both countries than in 2016.

Casualty demographics

In 2017, civilians made up 99% (282) of all cluster munition casualties for which the status was known. The status was unknown for three casualties. The high percentage of civilian casualties is consistent with findings based on analysis of historical data. Four casualties were clearance personnel (humanitarian deminers), making up 1% of the 2017 total.

Children accounted for 36% of all cluster munition casualties in 2017, where the age group was reported.[13] This included 91 children among 252 casualties of known age group. Among casualties of cluster munition remnants, children made up the greater proportion, 62% of casualties of known age group (48 children among 78 of known age groups).

The majority of casualties, 75%, were men and boys, where sex was recorded (145 of 193 casualties where the sex was known).

Country and other area details

As in 2016, casualties from cluster munition attacks were recorded in two countries in 2017: Syria and Yemen. Casualties from cluster munition remnants were also reported in both states.

In Syria, 170 casualties of cluster munition attacks and 17 casualties of cluster munition remnants were reported. As has been the case beginning in 2012, Syria had the highest annual total of reported cluster munition casualties.[14] Not included in the 2017 cluster munition casualty total were an additional 73 casualties that occurred in situations where both cluster munitions and other explosive weapons were used. In many other reports of cluster munition attacks, no fatalities were recorded, but in some cases, casualties may have occurred.[15] Furthermore, many casualties are not recorded or not disaggregated in the available data. For example, it is unclear if submunitions were among the ERW and “unknown devices” that caused 275 of the 1,478 new landmine and ERW casualties in Syria in 2017.[16]

In Yemen, 54 cluster munition casualties were reported in 2017, which represented an increase from the 38 cluster munition casualties reported in 2016, although fewer than the 104 casualties in 2015. The number of casualties from cluster munition attacks increased to 26 in 2017, from 20 in 2016, but was less than the 94 reported in 2015. The number of remnant casualties increased to 28 in 2017, from 18 in 2016, and 10 in 2015.

Cluster munition remnant casualties were reported in eight countries and two other areas in 2017. These include countries that remain affected long after the attacks took place, as well as Syria and Yemen that were recently contaminated again. Regardless of the time period since attacks, cluster munition remnants disproportionately harm civilians, including children.

In Iraq, five cluster munition remnant casualties were recorded. However, the numbers of casualties of all types of mines/ERW is certainly under-recorded.

In Lao PDR, the world’s most cluster munition-affected state, the number of submunition casualties decreased from the 10-year peak of 51 recorded in 2016 to 32 in 2017, but was higher than the 18 recorded in 2015. One cluster munition incident caused 12 of the casualties, as was described above. Almost half (15) of cluster munition casualties in Lao PDR in 2017 were women and girls.

In Vietnam, one casualty was recorded in 2017. Vietnam is also massively contaminated, but a casualty database is only maintained in one province, Quang Tri.

Lebanon reported five cluster munition casualties in 2017, of which three were deminers. This was an increase on the one casualty reported in 2016, but fewer than the 13 reported in 2015.

In Serbia, one deminer was injured.

In Cambodia, one casualty was reported in 2017. It had reported no cluster munition casualties for the first time in 2016.

In other area Nagorno Karabakh, a shepherd was injured.

In other area Western Sahara two cluster munition casualties were reported in separate incidents.


[1] Global cluster munition casualty data used by the Monitor includes the global casualty data collected by Handicap International (HI) in 2006 and 2007. In 2007, HI reported an all-time total of 13,306 cluster munition casualties. See, HI, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), Handicap International is now Humanity & Inclusion.

[2] The Monitor systematically collects data from a wide array of sources, including national reports, mine action centers, mine clearance operators, and victim assistance service providers, as well as national and international media reporting.

[3] Casualty data for 2017 received by email from Bountao Chanthavongsa, UXO Victim Assistance Officer, National Regulatory Authority (NRA), 21 February 2018; and Legacies of War, “Four–Decade–Old Bomb Mistaken for Toy, Kills and Injures 13 in Laos,” 23 March 2017,

[4] ICRC, “ICRC Assistance for the victims of cluster munitions: The perspective of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” Presented by Louis Maresca, Legal Adviser, ICRC, November 2007.

[5] Cluster munition remnants include abandoned cluster munitions, unexploded submunitions, and unexploded bomblets, as well as failed cluster munitions. Unexploded submunitions are “explosive submunitions” that have been dispersed or released from a cluster munition but failed to explode as intended. Unexploded bomblets are similar to unexploded submunitions but refer to “explosive bomblets,” which have been dispersed or released from an affixed aircraft dispenser and failed to explode as intended. Abandoned cluster munitions are unused explosive submunitions or whole cluster munitions that have been left behind or dumped and are no longer under the control of the party that left them behind or dumped them. See, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Art. 2 (5), (6), (7), and (15).

[6] Calculated by the Monitor based on known data and various countries estimates recorded in HI data. See HI, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007),

[7] Global cluster munition casualty data used by the Monitor includes the global casualty data collected by HI in 2006 and 2007. In 2007, HI reported an all-time total of 13,306 cluster munition casualties. See, HI, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007),

[8] HI, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 104; and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Cluster Munitions Maim and Kill Iraqis–Every Day,” 10 November 2010.

[9] Use includes casualties due to both ground-launched and air-dropped cluster munitions. Use occurs primarily during attacks or “strikes,” but also during the dumping of cluster munitions prior to aircraft landing. As a shorthand, the Monitor at times labels all casualties from cluster munitions while launched, dropped or dumped, as occurring during strikes or attacks. Monitor revision of past data has resulted in casualties that were thought to be, but not specifically labelled as, cluster munition remnant casualties being recorded as cluster munition remnant casualties in global data. In this data, it is not possible to specify whether one recorded casualty was due to use or remnants.

[10] Direct participation in armed conflict, also called direct participation in hostilities, distinguishes persons who are not civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law, whereby “those involved in the fighting must make a basic distinction between combatants, who may be lawfully attacked, and civilians, who are protected against attack unless and for such time as they directly participate in hostilities.” ICRC, “Direct participation in hostilities: questions & answers,” 2 June 2009,

[11] No precise number or estimate of casualties is known for Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, or Somalia. In addition, there are known to be states, including States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, with cluster munition victims, including persons who were injured, on the territory of other states.

[12] It is possible that cluster munition casualties have occurred but gone unrecorded in other countries where cluster munitions were used, abandoned, or stored in the past—such as States Parties Mauritania and Zambia and non-signatories Azerbaijan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe. Better identification and disaggregation of cluster munition casualties are needed in most cluster munition-affected states and areas. States Parties Mauritania and Zambia have both reported that survey is required to identify if they have cluster munition victims on their territories. There is also a firsthand historical account of civilian casualties from an incident with a submunition at a weapons testing range in Zimbabwe, a non-signatory state (in the time of the former Rhodesia). For the first time in 2015, Chad—a State Party reported to have cluster munition casualties earlier, but lacking disaggregated casualty data—recorded a specific cluster munition remnant incident causing casualties. In Angola, a national victim survey identified at least 354 cluster munition survivors in one province. However, since Cluster Munition Monitor 2015 was published, newly available information has indicated uncertainty around this finding, both whether the casualties were caused by cluster munitions and the means by which they were identified. Pending further clarification, they remain in the Cluster Munition Monitor global casualty total.

[13] “Children” means persons under 18 years old, or those casualties listed as “child” in existing data or reporting.

[14] For Syria, 860 cluster munition casualties were reported in 2016; 248 in 2015; 383 in 2014; 1,001 in 2013; and at least 583 in 2012. The extreme difficulties faced in collecting data continued, which likely resulted in an underreporting of cluster munition casualties in all years.

[15] These 73 casualties of weapons (including cluster munitions) and the cluster munition attacks without casualties reported were identified in analysis of data recorded by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) for calendar year 2017.

[16] The Monitor updates casualty data as new information becomes available; therefore these totals may be revised in subsequent reports and country profiles.