May 2024 – The use of explosive weapons, especially those in populated areas, is widely acknowledged to be a leading cause of harm to civilians in conflict settings. Among the civilian population, children face distinct vulnerabilities, from the specific physical impact of blast injuries caused by explosive weapons on children’s bodies, to the complexity of their long-term recovery needs, to the impact on their mental health and development.

The United Nations’ Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) agenda has established a key set of tools to address serious harm against children in war, and the threats posed to children by the use of explosive weapons have been consistently acknowledged since its very conception. From landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) to the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas with the growing urbanization of warfare, the Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict are replete with statistics of children affected by explosive weapons. Explosive weapons are among the leading causes of the killing and maiming of children in armed conflict. Children recruited or used by armed forces or armed groups may be forced to use explosive weapons. Such weapons are frequently used in attacks on schools and hospitals and can hinder humanitarian access for children – all of which constitute grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict, as identified by the United Nations (UN).

This policy note aims to highlight the impact of explosive weapons on children through the lens of the UN’s CAAC agenda and provide a snapshot to demonstrate a longstanding and pernicious relationship between the use of explosive weapons and grave violations against children, as well as the particular risks these weapons pose for children in war. Finally, this policy note provides recommendations for specific actions that can be taken to mitigate and address the devastating effects of explosive weapons on children in armed conflict.

Read Explosive Weapons and the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda

Photo: © Govorov Evgeny