Children Are Forty Percent of
Cluster Bomb Casualties
TV 3 News (New Zealand)
Four out of every ten people killed or
injured by cluster bombs are children, delegates at a major conference
on cluster munitions being held in Wellington were told today.
About 560 delegates from 122 countries
have converged on Wellington for the conference which aims to
draft a treaty text, to be negotiated in Dublin, Ireland, in May.
The attempt to achieve a treaty, known
as the Oslo Process, was started last year by New Zealand and
six other countries.
Opening the conference, Disarmament Minister
Phil Goff said a strong declaration on cluster bombs at the conference
would mark a pivotal step in getting the weapons banned.
More than half of the 76 states in the
world that stockpile cluster munitions are taking part in the
negotiations, along with a majority of the weapon producers.
However, major producers such as the US,
Russia, China and Pakistan have not joined the process and have
no observers at the conference.
Cluster bombs are built to explode above
the ground, releasing thousands of bomblets primed to detonate
on impact. But combat statistics show between 10 percent and 40
percent fail to go off and lie primed in the target area to kill
and injure civilians.
UNICEF deputy executive director Hilde
Frafjord Johnson, speaking on behalf of 14 United Nations entities
that form the United Nations Mine Action Team, said the UN wanted
cluster bombs banned.
She said the weapons had a horrendous
humanitarian, development and human rights impact.
Ms Johnson said the extensive use of cluster
munitions in southern Lebanon in 2006 was a tragic reminder of
how they caused death and serious injury of civilians.
"Sometimes, the presence of unexploded
sub-munitions forced populations out of their homes and prevented
those already displaced from returning home to rebuild their lives
Ms Johnson spoke of 12-year-old Hassan
Hemadi, who in 2006 picked up an object outside his home in southern
Lebanon while he was watering the family garden.
"'I saw a metal object,"' Johnson
said, quoting Hemadi.
"'I did not know what it was and
so I picked it up. I started playing with the ribbon on the end,
twirling it around. Then I don't know what happened, it exploded.
Now I have lost the fingers on my hand."
Mr Goff urged delegates to tackle difficult
areas to come up with a declaration that provided a "solid
foundation" for the May negotiations.
"It is now time to put the fence
at the top of the cliff, and not simply be the ambulance at the
"We need to eliminate the use of
cluster munitions where they have an unacceptable effect on civilian
populations," Mr Goff said.
But Amnesty International spokeswoman
Margaret Taylor said any declaration that fell short of calling
for a complete ban on the destructive weapons would be a failure.
Ms Taylor said cluster bombs, which could
be fired, launched or dropped by aircraft or artillery, were more
lethal than landmines yet there was no international treaty on
Amnesty opposed the manufacture, stockpiling,
transfer and use of cluster munitions.
Landmine & Cluster Bomb watch