One year and five months ago, states came together in Dublin to sign a Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA).   

Some 83 states endorsed the Declaration: the first formal international recognition of the serious harm caused to people when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, where 9 out of 10 of the people killed or injured by these weapons in populated areas are civilians.   

Back in 2022, over 6,500 MAG supporters signed our open letter urging world leaders to sign up to the Political Declaration and commit to protecting civilians in conflict. Many of those who joined us in our campaigning to encourage support for the Declaration recognised just how important this is, and it remains just as important today. When faced with the current crises and conflicts raging around the world, the uproar for peace is justifiably loud.   

Next week, Norway will host the first international follow-up conference to review the implementation of the Political Declaration on EWIPA. This is a critical moment for endorsing states to proactively implement their commitments set out in the declaration, and for increased support to keep people safe, including through life-saving risk education lessons and the clearance and removal of explosive ordnance.   

Here are some of the people who have been impacted by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.  

Mykhaila, Ukraine

In May 2023, a Russian airstrike on a Ukrainian school caused horror for one village. 

Every bomb dropped in this terrible war affects countless families. The devastation caused by the destruction of this one school resulted in the death of several people, and caused fear and uncertainty for an entire community. 

Our team recently visited the village to hear first-hand accounts of those affected – some of whom had lost loved ones.  

Mykhaila’s husband was killed in the school bombing. 

“My husband, Oleksander, was the headmaster of the school. He worked at the school his whole life after he graduated from University, he had only been headmaster for one year when he was killed. His father helped build the school, it was his life in these walls. He loved his job."   

He was 50 when he was killed by an airstrike on 13th May 2023. He was trapped under rubble for nine hours before being rescued, and died two months later in hospital. After this devastating event, Mykhaila left the place she had called home since she was five years old.   

There were 136 children who attended the school of all ages.   

Latifa, Lebanon

The town of Toul in Lebanon has a long history of conflict. In 1975, it was heavily shelled by the Israeli army, and from 1982-1985, it was occupied by Israeli forces. Following the end of occupation, Toul saw rapid growth and the local community started to develop vast new housing and infrastructure. 

However, as the land had not been surveyed for unexploded ordnance prior to the new developments, the years that followed saw a series of incidents in the area, many involving children. In 2019, eight-year-old Ali Maatouk lost his life and another child was injured as a bomb detonated while they played near their homes.  

Immediately after the incident, MAG started clearing Toul. The teams worked around people’s houses, in their gardens, and near schools. To date, a total of 56,077m2 of land has been successfully cleared and MAG has found and destroyed 142 cluster munitions as well as 18 pieces of unexploded ordnance, providing a safer place for more than 15,000 people living and working in the area. “Every child has the right to play and study safely, free from the threat of death and injury caused by cluster munitions. MAG is restoring our lost rights,” says Latifa Hareb, local resident, social activist, and Director of Fadak Center of Education. 

Ayad, Iraq

Around 400 families once lived in the serene village of Rambusi, near the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq. The Yazidis inhabited the western side, while Arab Muslims lived on the eastern side.  

In August 2014, however, ISIS began to seize control of Sinjar and its surrounding villages, including Rambusi. 

Ayad Ali Khodida – 28 years old and a father of three – fled with nearly all the villagers and his relatives.  

Within hours, ISIS took over, kidnapping and killing any members of the Yazidi community who were unable to leave. 

Ayad, his family and other villagers managed to reach Sinjar Mountain but were soon surrounded by ISIS fighters. They endured intense summer heat without access to food, water, or medical care.  

After seven days trapped on the mountain, Kurdish forces helped them escape by establishing a corridor into Syria, leading them back to Iraq across the border into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. 

Ayad and his family lived in a school with many others before moving to live with relatives.  

Nearly three years later in May 2017, Rambusi was liberated, but the village was littered with dangerous explosive items, preventing families from returning home or safely using their land. 

Ayad’s house had been used as a store for several explosive devices during the conflict. 

MAG cleared homes and land around the village, including Ayad’s house, but the building was still largely destroyed and not fit for him and his family to return to. He began building a house next door while still living in displacement. 

In December 2023, almost a decade later, Ayad moved back home.  

“It was a happy and incredible feeling to be in my home," he said. "I want my kids to grow up here."