A Threat to Innocence? How Will Ukraine’s Children Be Affected?
Soy, aged six, was playing with her friends when they discovered a cluster bomb. Not knowing how dangerous it was, they started to play with it. Moments later it exploded, killing one of her friends.
Over 25,000 people have lost their lives in Laos, with 40 per cent of the victims being children. Some of them were killed or injured. It is the most bombed country in the world per capita. During the Vietnam War, the United States of America dropped 270 million cluster bombs. However, 80 million of the bombs did not detonate.
The price of metal significantly rose between 2002 and 2005. It led to an increase in reports of children involved in scrap collection. This meant that they were also involved in the collection of explosive ordinance.
The incidents involving children involving cluster munitions explosions occur while they are playing, carrying out livelihood activities, or collecting scrap metal. In Afghanistan, children makeup 36.3% of overall victims and also make up 40% of post-strike victims. The most common activity during these incidents is tending to animals, at a rate of 52%.
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So what are cluster munitions, or bombs? Cluster Munitions are weapons designed to have small submunitions in them that disperse over a larger area and explode. They are bombs with smaller bombs in them to increase the surface area for damage when they explode. However, these weapons pose a big threat to civilians. Some of the submunitions do not explode and could potentially lead to being de facto landmines, which would explode upon interaction after many years when the war has ended.
Many countries signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions to prohibit the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions. Notable countries, however, such as the United States and Russia, have not joined or ratified the convention.
Recent Political Events on Cluster Munitions going to Ukraine
There is video footage released by the Russian intelligence community showing Ukraine's use of cluster munitions against Russian soldiers. Although the submunitions missed the targets, we see that 60% of the submunitions don’t go off. The video seems to have been captured on a farm. This scenario builds a mutiny. The thought of people being on the farm years after the war stirs a lot of questions that will probably be answered when they are blown off. Below is a link to the video.
United States ‘Moral Authority
The National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, has defended the decision of Biden’s administration to send cluster munitions to Ukraine. Although some congressional Democrats have opposed this due to the munitions threats they pose to civilians, the stance remains. Sullivan defended the choice by pointing out that by backing Ukraine while it is being attacked by Russia, the United States and Ukraine have moral superiority in this battle. He maintained that arming Ukraine with the tools it needs to defend itself and save its population is not an attack on morality but rather an answer to a vicious assault.
The New York Times released an article, Cluster Weapons the U.S. Is Sending Ukraine Often Fail to Detonate? The article suggests that the cluster munitions in question contain older grenades with a known failure rate of 14 per cent or higher. These cluster munitions are 155-millimeter artillery shells that can fly about 20 miles and release 72 small grenades upon breaking open midair. The dud grenades left behind by these shells pose a significant risk to civilians and require careful clearance. The dud rate of Russia’s cluster munitions is estimated to be as high as 40 per cent. The Pentagon claims that the cluster munitions being sent to Ukraine have been extensively tested, but the observed dud rates in combat have been significantly higher.
But why would Congresswoman Samantha Power blast Former US President Trump for failing to ban Cluster Munitions in 2017 but be silent at the moment? This could potentially amount to a political weapon. Did it matter the most when they were not needed anywhere? Trump could have done away with these weapons.
Putin’s Comments on U.S. Cluster Munitions
- Specialists are studying captured Western-made equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Interesting solutions will be implemented through “reverse engineering.”
- Ukraine consumes 5,000–6,000 155-mm rounds per day, while the US produces only 15,000 per month. The US's supply of cluster munitions to Ukraine is seen as a desperate and hypocritical step.
- Putin suggests that the US offering cluster munitions to Ukraine should be considered a crime.
There have been claims from both sides about the use of these cluster munitions. The most notable claim I have come across is the one from Human Rights Watch. There has been an observation that the Russian Armed Forces have been using cluster munitions in civilian-occupied areas. You can read the report here:
Effects that Ukraine’s Children will Encounter
My concerns go to the end of this war. We know the war could escalate even before a peace agreement can be reached between the two countries Years later, the civilians will be the ones who are affected the most. Those hurt will be children, most likely. They’ll stumble upon bombs, which will affect their livelihoods. Many will be forced to play in houses to avoid stumbling upon these atrocities. Their future will be at risk.
These are the few things Ukrainian children are likely to face after the war:
Unexploded Ordnance: Cluster munitions frequently leave behind unexploded submunitions, which pose a hidden danger in post-conflict environments. Children, who are naturally curious and may be unaware of the dangers, may come into contact with unexploded ordnance. If the submunitions detonate upon interaction, this can result in serious injury or death.
Even if children survive encounters with unexploded cluster munitions, they can sustain life-altering injuries. Explosions from these submunitions can result in severe burns, limb loss, blindness, hearing impairment, and other physically debilitating injuries. Such injuries can have long-term effects on their ability to live normal lives, pursue education, and engage in daily activities.
Children exposed to the horrors of cluster munitions during the conflict, as well as those who live in constant fear of unexploded ordnance, can suffer from severe psychological trauma. Witnessing friends and family members’ injuries or deaths or living in fear of hidden dangers can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders. These consequences can linger long after the war is over, affecting their overall well-being and prospects.
Their education can be disrupted. The presence of unexploded cluster munitions can make it difficult for children to attend school. Schools in contaminated areas may be forced to close until the area is cleared, depriving children of their right to an education. Even after clearance, the psychological impact and ongoing risks can cause parents to be hesitant to send their children to school, limiting their educational opportunities even further.
Challenges in the socioeconomics of Ukraine Cluster munitions can have long-term socioeconomic consequences for children and their families. Fear and danger associated with unexploded ordnance can stymie economic activity, preventing communities from fully utilising their land or participating in agricultural and development projects. Ukraine is an enormous centre of agriculture in the world. As a result, children’s opportunities may be limited, creating long-term barriers to their overall well-being and prospects.
There are more effects than I will address here. I hope cluster bombs are not used in Ukraine. Addressing these risks necessitates coordinated mine action efforts, such as the removal of unexploded ordnance, risk education programmes to raise awareness of the dangers, and psychosocial support for affected children. International cooperation, funding, and support are critical in providing the resources needed to mitigate these risks and assist children in post-conflict settings in rebuilding their lives.
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