Cluster Bombs

Cluster bombs can contain hundreds of explosives

Cluster bombs, or cluster munitions, are weapons that can contain hundreds of explosive submunitions. They are dropped from the air or fired from the ground and designed to break open in mid-air, releasing the submunitions, saturating an area that can be as wide as several football fields.

Cluster bombs kill and injure too many civilians both during attacks and after the conflict has ended. From Laos to Lebanon, cluster bombs have posed a deadly and predictable threat in every conflict where they have been used and repeatedly caused excessive harm to civilians.

Cluster bombs cover a wide area with explosives

Cluster bombs pose a deadly threat to civilians during attacks because they cover wide areas with explosives and shrapnel. The area affected during a single attack can be up to the size of several football fields. There is no discrimination between soldiers and civilians within the affected area.

When cluster bombs are used in or near populated areas—where almost all modern conflicts take place—excessive civilian casualties will almost always result.

Since the explosive submunitions are not precision-guided, nor  directed against a specific military object, their accuracy can be affected by weather and other environmental factors. Most cluster munitions hit areas outside the military objective targeted.

After the Attack

A large number of the smaller submunitions, dispersed from cluster munitions fail to explode as they are supposed to. As a result, huge quantities of the smaller explosive submunitions are left on the ground, and like landmines, they pose a lethal threat to civilians living and working in that area long after a conflict has ended. By their nature cluster munitions are much more lethal than landmines.

Farmers working their land can cause submunitions to explode. Children are often attracted by the curious shape, colour and small size of the submunitions and have mistaken them for toys, killing and injuring themselves and others from picking them up or playing with them.

Simply stepping on a submunitions or picking it up can cause it to explode—resulting in death or severe injuries from shrapnel including loss of limbs and blindness.

Cluster bombs also prevent people from rebuilding their livelihoods.

The explosive contamination hampers post-conflict development, renders agricultural land inaccessible, or forces people to work in contaminated areas despite the risk because there is no other means for them to earn an income.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions

In 2008, governments from around the world signed the most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty of the decade since the Ottawa Treaty, banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, and obligating them to provide victim assistance and to clear contaminated land. 

To date, 120 countries that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) –
106 States Parties and 14 Signatories.