Cluster Munition Monitor 2019

Cluster Munition Casualties

During the 10-year period of Cluster Munition Monitor reporting 2009–2018, 4,128 new cluster munition casualties were recorded in 17 countries and three other areas.[1] The vast majority of new casualties, 3,343, recorded through that time occurred in Syria as the result of new use—including attacks and contamination by cluster munition remnants.[2]

Various estimates for casualties in cluster munition-affected countries globally since the 1960s are roughly between 56,000 and 86,000. The present total of recorded cluster munition casualties is 21,764 from cluster munition remnants and from attacks in 34 countries and three other areas.

There are likely more states with cluster munition casualties than those listed in the table below.[3]

States and other areas where cluster munition casualties have occurred (all time as of 31 December 2018)[4]

States Parties

Non-signatories and other areas





Bosnia & Herzegovina















South Sudan





Sierra Leone










Democratic Republic of the Congo

Western Sahara





Note: other areas are indicated in italics.

Casualties in 2018

In 2018, the disproportionate humanitarian harm due to the indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions that led to the ban through the Convention on Cluster Munitions continued: 99% of cluster munition casualties were civilians and the majority (52%) of all casualties in 2018 were children, where details were known.

The Monitor recorded a total of 149 cluster munition casualties during calendar year 2018. These casualties occurred in eight countries and one other area.[5] This was the lowest annual casualty count since 2012, when the Monitor started recording cluster munition casualties from new use in Syria. The total of 149 casualties recorded in 2018 represents a continuing decrease from 289 casualties in 2017 and moreover, marked a significant drop from the 971 cluster munition casualties recorded in 2016.

The Monitor provides the most comprehensive statistics available on cluster munition casualties recorded annually over time, in individual countries, and aggregated globally. However, as in previous years, it is certain that this number does not capture all annual casualties caused by cluster munitions, and thus the actual totals are certainly higher. Several countries where casualties are reported do not have complete, accurate, or nationwide casualty surveillance systems and/or have experienced intensified or fluctuating conflict conditions that obstructed efforts to precisely record casualties.

Cluster munition casualties in 2018

Cluster munition attacks



Cluster munition remnants











South Sudan






Nagorno Karabakh


Note: States Parties are indicated in bold, other areas in italics.

The total of annual casualties in 2018 occurred both at the time of attack (65) and from explosive remnants (84). Of the casualties recorded, 40 people were killed, and 109 were injured. The real number of new casualties is likely much higher and fluctuations in some years may be due to variation in the availability of information and data at country level.

The majority of annual casualties in 2018 (53%) were recorded in Syria, as has been the case since 2012. In Syria, 65 casualties of cluster munition attacks and 15 casualties of cluster munition remnants were reported in 2018.

In 2016 and 2017, the only casualties from cluster munition attacks were recorded in Syria and Yemen. In 2018, casualties from such attacks were reported only in Syria, marking a significant decrease in casualties from the previous two years. Overall, in 2018, 65 people were recorded killed and injured directly due to cluster munition attacks in Syria. This was some two-thirds fewer than the 196 casualties recorded total due to attacks in the two countries in 2017. In both states, casualties from cluster munition remnants were also reported in 2018.


The number of reported cluster munition attacks in Syria have decreased since mid-2017 as Syrian government forces have regained areas previously held by non-state armed groups. The decrease in casualties is also likely to be influenced in part by the nature of attacks in Syria, with multiple types of armaments, and consequently unclear attribution in data to whether cluster munitions were directly responsible. Thus, in addition to these 65 casualties from cluster munition attacks, another 256 casualties were reported in Syria in 2018 during bombing or shelling that involved cluster munitions as well as other munitions, including unitary air-dropped ordnance or rockets. In such data, the weapon types causing individual casualties could not be differentiated in the information available and therefore those people killed and injured in these attacks were not included in the annual total of cluster munition casualties.

Cluster munition remnants caused 84 casualties in eight countries and one other area, 10 casualties less than were reported in 2017. This includes countries that remain affected long after the attacks took place, as well as Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen that have continued to be contaminated due to more recent attacks.

In 2018, Yemen had the most recorded casualties due to cluster munition remnants (31), surpassing the annual remnants casualties reported for Syria or Lao PDR for the first time. However, the decrease in reported casualties for Syria was likely influenced by continued reduction in the areas where most data collectors had access in the country. It can also be difficult for data collectors to distinguish between explosions of cluster munition remnants and those of other explosive ordnance types, including mines. In one such case in Yemen in 2018, while reports from varying sources attributed explosions causing multiple casualties “to Houthi-planted landmines, others reported that they were caused by Saudi-led coalition cluster bomb remnants. It proved impossible to positively attribute responsibility.”[6]

In State Party Lao PDR, the world’s most cluster munition-affected state, the number of submunition casualties continued to decrease from the 10-year high of 51 recorded in 2016 to 21 in 2018.

In State Party Iraq, six cluster munition remnant casualties were reported. However, the number of casualties of all types of mines/explosive remnants of war (ERW) is certainly under-recorded. Two-thirds (four of six) of cluster munition casualties were women or girls.

State Party Lebanon reported five cluster munition casualties in 2018, two of whom were Syrian citizens.

South Sudan recorded three casualties from one explosion of a cluster munition remnant.

Afghanistan, Ukraine, and one other area, Nagorno Karabakh, each had one casualty reported in 2018.

A number of countries with recorded casualties in 2017 did not have any reported in 2018. Serbia, where a deminer was injured by a cluster munition remnant in 2017, had no casualties in 2018; however, in June 2019 an explosion on an urban construction site injured three Turkish laborers.[7] In Vietnam, no cluster munition casualties were identified in 2018; one casualty was recorded in 2017. Vietnam is massively contaminated, but casualty data is limited and mostly only maintained in a database for one province, Quang Tri. In Cambodia, which had reported a year without cluster munition casualties for the first time in 2016, again reported no casualties in 2018, although one casualty was reported in 2017. For one other area, Western Sahara, 2018 was the first year since 2013 that no cluster munition casualties were recorded.


In 2018, civilians (133) made up 99% of all cluster munition casualties for which the status was known. Two casualties were recorded as military and the status of 14 casualties was unknown. The high percentage of civilian casualties is identical to 2017 data and consistent with findings based on analysis of historical data.

Regardless of the time period since attacks, cluster munition remnants disproportionately harm civilians, including children. Children (52%) accounted for the majority of all cluster munition casualties in 2018, where the age group was reported (63 of 122) compared to 36% (91 children among 252 casualties of known age group) in 2017.[8]

The majority of casualties, 71%, were men and boys, where sex was recorded (60 of 85 casualties), representing an increase in the ratio of casualties compared to those among women and girls from 2017.

All cluster munition casualties over time

The total number of cluster munition casualties for all time recorded by the Monitor reached 21,764 as of the end of 2018. This includes both casualties directly resulting from cluster munition attacks and casualties from remnants. 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 2018.

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. Some global estimates of cluster munition casualties are as high as 100,000, but are based on extrapolations from limited data samples, which may not be representative of national averages or the actual number of casualties.[9]

Before 2008, when the Convention on Cluster Munitions opened for signature, 13,306 recorded cluster munition casualties were identified.[10] 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 (7,750), Syria (3,348), and Iraq (3,050). However, for Iraq, it was estimated that there have been between 5,500 and 8,000 casualties from cluster munitions since 1991.[11] No such estimates are available for cluster munition casualties in Syria.

The vast majority of new casualties recorded since 2010 were in Syria; new cluster munition casualties were also recorded in another 16 countries and three other areas: States Parties Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Croatia, Iraq, Lao PDR, and Lebanon; signatory Democratic Republic of the Congo; states not party Cambodia, Libya, Serbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Yemen; and three other areas: Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western Sahara.

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.[12] Thus, cluster munition remnants have caused most recorded casualties to date (17,471). Another 4,292 recorded casualties occurred during cluster munition attacks, with just under half (1,883) of those reported in Syria since 2012.[13] Since 2012, however, casualties recorded from cluster munition attacks have outnumbered those from cluster munition remnants.

[1] Casualties mean people killed and injured, including those for whom the survival outcome is not known.

[2] 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).

[3] 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).

[4] 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. In Cluster Munition Monitor 2019, Liberia has been added as a country with cluster munition casualties due to newly identified incidents that occurred during cluster munition attacks in the 1990s.

[5] 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.

[6] Monitor analysis of Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED) data for calendar year 2018. Approved citation: Clionadh Raleigh, Andrew Linke, Håvard Hegre, and Joakim Karlsen, “Introducing ACLED-Armed Conflict Location and Event Data,” Journal of Peace Research, Issue 47(5), 2010, pp. 651–660. These casualties were not included in the total of cluster munition casualties for 2018.

[7] These casualties were not included in the total of cluster munition casualties for 2018.

[8] Children made up the greater proportion of casualties of cluster munition remnants, 66% of casualties of known age group (39 children among 60 of known age groups). “Children” means persons under 18 years old, or those casualties listed as “child” in existing data or reporting.

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

[10] 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),

[11] 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.

[12] 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.” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), “Direct participation in hostilities: questions & answers,” 2 June 2009,

[13] 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.