For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Victims of Cluster Munitions Need More Help

WASHINGTON - Handicap International calls on the U.S. government to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The organization urges the U.S. to allocate resources to combat cluster munitions and to support the victims of these indiscriminate weapons. New data from the Cluster Munition Monitor 2012*, released today, shows just $2.9 million — a mere 5% of the budget to combat cluster munitions — is earmarked for victim assistance. The Cluster Munition Monitor estimates between 20,000 and 54,000 victims worldwide. The Monitor looks at the application of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions worldwide. It also finds that just 13 of 41 contaminated countries and territories receive funding to combat these weapons.

The Cluster Munition Monitor 2012 provides an overview of international funding for action against cluster munitions and highlights the link between the lack of funding and the absence of progress in the field of victim assistance. Less than $60.5 million has been allocated to cluster munitions by 21 countries this year, and less than 5% of this sum was dedicated to victim assistance, a figure that falls far short of the needs identified in the field by Handicap International.

“Nearly all victims — 94% — are civilians, and 40% are children,” said Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. “The report counts between 20,000 and 54,000 cluster munition victims, who will need life-long assistance, and access to a range of health care and support to be fully included in society. Their families and communities also need help.”

Less than one-third of contaminated countries have benefited from international funding for cluster munition clearance. Countries like Cambodia, Iraq and Kosovo, although among the world’s most contaminated, have not received funding. Others, such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Lebanon, have drastically reduced their victim assistance services. Handicap International is deeply concerned about the lack of commitment of contributor countries, despite the seriousness of this problem.

Cluster munitions contaminate nearly one-quarter of all countries. There were no reported deployments of cluster munitions in 2012; however, after nearly 70 years of use, these weapons still pose a threat to 41 countries and territories. The work of clearing countries of cluster munitions is long and painstaking. The operators involved in demining, such as Handicap International, cleared an average of around 1 per week in 2011. These operations have led to the destruction of around 50,000 cluster munitions. Handicap International’s teams have many years of hard work ahead to finally rid countries of these terrible weapons.

The significant advances mentioned in this report refer to the destruction of stockpiles of cluster munitions. Since the entry into force of the Oslo Convention on August 1, 2010, the States Parties have destroyed more than two-thirds of their stocks, representing around 90 million submunitions. This information underlines the effectiveness of this convention in preventing the future use of these conventional weapons and the involvement of former producer countries in their destruction.

Handicap International is calling on all countries to join the Oslo Convention as soon as possible so that the example given by the States Parties provides a model for other countries. The United States alone currently possesses between 800 million and 1 billion submunitions. If these weapons are ever used, it would cause a disaster on an unprecedented scale.


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Handicap International is an independent and impartial international aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, taking action and bearing witness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Since its creation in 1982, Handicap International has established development programs in more than 60 countries and it has worked in various emergency situations.  Eight national associations comprise the Handicap International network: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Switzerland. Together, the national associations mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and promote the organization’s principles and actions around the world. Handicap International is one of the six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which was jointly-awarded the 1997 Nobel PeacePrize. In 2011, Handicap International received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. 

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