In total, the Cluster Munition Coalition said, 971 people were killed or maimed by the bombs in 2016, of whom 860 were in Syria, 51 in Laos and 38 in Yemen. The group said civilians accounted for 98 percent of the casualties.
Other countries where casualties from cluster munitions were reported included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Serbia, South Sudan and Vietnam.
Launched from the ground or dropped from the air, cluster munitions consist of containers that open and disperse submunitions, or bomblets, that fan out and explode, killing or maiming without distinction between civilian and military targets. Some of the bomblets can fail to detonate as designed, essentially making them de facto land mines that can explode long after a conflict has ended. Many of the victims are unsuspecting children.
“Cluster munitions pose significant dangers to civilians for two principal reasons: their impact at the time of use and their deadly legacy,” the Cluster Munition Coalition said in the preface to its 2017 report.
Sensitive to the stigma of cluster munitions, the United States has severely restricted exports of the weapon and sought to improve technology to minimize collateral damage. Under a 2009 law, only cluster munitions with a failure rate of 1 percent or less can be exported, and they can be used only against “clearly defined military targets,” not “where civilians are known to be present.”
In another significant sign of the coercive effect of the treaty, the last remaining manufacturer of cluster munitions in the United States, Textron Systems, announced last August that it was stopping production of the weapons.