Intended for healthcare professionals


Who gets hurt by all these weapons?

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 14 August 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:395

Non-combatants outside formal conflicts

  1. Chris Smith, director, conflict, security, and development group
  1. Centre for Defence Studies, King's College, London WC2R 2LS

    Papers pp 410, 412, 415

    One of the most tragic manifestations of the post cold war world is the proliferation of weapons. One consequence of the change in the scope and nature of conflicts is that far greater numbers of non-combatants are being directly and indirectly injured, maimed, and killed by weapons that used to be thought of as weapons of war, to be directed against combatants. The extent of the injuries and the proportions of non-combatants affected is documented in this week's issue by three papers that draw on the International Committee of the Red Cross's unique database of wounds treated in its own hospitals (pp 410-7).13 Yet, despite burgeoning international concern, we are woefully short of solutions to address this proliferation of illegal weapons.

    The studies by Coupland and Meddings show starkly that innocent non-combatants are increasingly both victims and targets of all types of weapons, not just light arms but also landmines, and, importantly, fragmentation munitions.13 …

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