October 05, 2017

New Handicap International report on bombing in Syria

In the new Handicap International report released today, Everywhere the bombing followed us, in-depth interviews of more than 200 Syrian refugees in Lebanon confirm and detail the devastating and lasting social and economic effects of the use of explosive weapons. Over half of the refugees interviewed were displaced within Syria before fleeing to Lebanon, experiencing consequences ranging from personal injury to the death of one of more family members, the destruction of homes, infrastructure and/or livelihoods. The report finds women are most vulnerable.

“When we arrived… we thought we had reached safety. We had not,” said Hanan, a 31-year-old refugee whose story is captured in the report. “It is like running away from death and arriving to find that death is waiting for you.”

As a follow-up to the Qasef: Escaping the bombs report published by Handicap International in September 2016, which identified the mass use of explosive weapons in populated areas as one of the primary causes of the mass displacement of Syrians, this new report conveys the untold stories of refugees, putting a human face to the toll of armed conflict and the use of explosive weapons on civilians.

Among refugees who provided testimony, the report finds:

  • Most refugees were uprooted multiple times before settling outside Syria. o Nearly half were displaced within Syria before fleeing to Lebanon.
        - More than half were displaced on average three times inside their home city (some up to 10 times).
        - Nearly 65 percent were displaced one to three times in a city besides their home city before fleeing to Lebanon.
        - Bombing and shelling were one of the most dominant reasons for displacement. o Bombing and shelling were cited as
           the primary cause of their forced displacement within and from their home city (36 percent of interviewees)
         - After armed conflict and the rise of crime within Syria, bombing and shelling was the third most cited reason refugees
          gave for fleeing to Lebanon (16 percent of interviewees)
  • The consequences of displacement and mass explosive weapons use are far-reaching.
         - 90 percent lost their homes or livelihoods due to the use of explosive weapons.
         - 44 percent lost their livelihoods (cattle, businesses, and so on) as a result of the use of explosive weapons.
         - Violence followed many who, after relocating and rebuilding their lives, lost their livelihoods again due to bombings.   
         - After the physical risks and the destruction of homes and public infrastructure, the psychological impact of fear, stress
           and distress were the third largest collective impact of the use of explosive weapons in Syria (35 percent).
  • Bombing has a specific impact on women.
         - As a result of bombings, women more often find themselves without the means to defend their physical integrity, and are more vulnerable to crime. 

The report supports Handicap International’s work to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including its Stop Bombing Civilians campaign and the INEW (International Network on Explosive Weapons) coalition of international and national organizations. In approximately one month, the Stop Bombing Civilians petition has secured over 365,000 signatures.

“War does not justify everything. There are international rules that must be enforced, such as the laws that require belligerent parties to protect civilians from the effects of war,” says Anne Héry, head of advocacy at Handicap International. “Attacks using explosive weapons, particularly with a wide-area impact, in populated areas have indiscriminate effects. Ninety-two percent of casualties of this practice are civilians. All States have a responsibility to ensure international humanitarian law is upheld and enforced.”

Handicap International and the Syrian crisis: More than 600,000 people have benefited from the actions taken by Handicap International since the launch of the organization’s operations in 2012. The organization provides physical rehabilitation services and psychological support and distributes emergency aid to meet the basic needs of casualties, people with disabilities and particularly vulnerable individuals. Handicap International also issues awareness-raising and safety messages targeted at local populations to prevent accidents caused by explosive remnants of war.

Research/Report Methodology: The Everywhere the bombing followed us report is based on a telephone survey of 205 Syrian refugees in Lebanon from July 20 to 26, 2017, and in-depth interviews with 14 Syrian women refugees from August 4 to 10, 2017. Interviewees (135 men and 72 women) were between 19 and 87 years-of-age.