UNICEF appeals for prohibition on deadly cluster munitions

5 November 2007

Marking the first-ever Global Day of Action Cluster Munitions, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today urged governments to create a legally binding international pact banning the deadly arms which pose a great threat to civilians, especially children.

Marking the first-ever Global Day of Action Cluster Munitions, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today urged governments to create a legally binding international pact banning the deadly arms which pose a great threat to civilians, especially children.

Children are disproportionately impacted by these weapons, according to UNICEF. One third of cluster munitions casualties in Afghanistan were children, while during the Kosovo war, more children were hurt by cluster munitions than by anti-personnel landmines, which are just as indiscriminate and have been prohibited by many nations.

“Too many tragic stories show that cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without jeopardizing a child's right to life, to health, to play and to a safe environment,” the agency said in a press release.

Children possess a natural curiosity and desire to play, but cluster munitions make everyday activities such as exploring after school, fetching water or playing soccer deadly, UNICEF said.

Cluster munitions often look like balls or canisters, objects children are used to seeing, while others are brightly coloured, making them more attractive to children.

There have been too many instances ? both during and after conflicts ? of children suffering from the devastating impact of cluster munitions, UNICEF pointed out.

The potential of the weapons to kill and maim was underscored during last year's war between Israel and Hizbollah, but children continue to fall victim to them years or even decades after the end of a conflict in countries such as Bosnia, Cambodia, Iraq, Laos, Serbia and Vietnam.

“Even when the fighting is over, cluster munitions can pose a real threat to the fulfillment of the rights of children,” the agency warned.

Children who survive cluster munitions blasts could be permanently disabled or lose their sight or hearing, potentially depriving them and their siblings of an education because families are often unable to afford both medical and school bills.

UNICEF pointed out that the vulnerability resulting from cluster munitions injuries often last well into adulthood, with discrimination impacting a child's psychological well-being.

 

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