Almost three quarters of child deaths and injuries in the five deadliest conflicts around the world in 2017 were caused by suicide bombs, landmines, unexploded ordnance, airstrikes and other forms of explosive weaponry, according to the findings of an analysis by Save the Children.

The analysis, contained in the report Blast injuries: The impact of explosive weapons on children in conflict, found that 72 per cent of child deaths and injuries in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen during 2017 - when 7,364 children were killed or maimed including 3,179 in Afghanistan alone - were caused by explosive weapons. 

While the report stated that the full extent of the problem is "obscured by poor-quality and unreliable casualty recording", it added that what information is available "clearly points towards high levels of civilian harm as a result of explosive weapons, with children often the worst affected".

In Syria, for example, an analysis showed that between March, 2011, and December, 2016, more than 14,000 children were killed due to explosive weapons compared with 5,021 adult fighters over the same period.

Paul Ronalds, CEO of Save the Children Australia, said the analysis demonstrated "children are the ultimate victims of war".

"Almost every hour a child is killed or maimed by an explosive weapon, with many losing limbs, shattering bones or suffering other horrific injuries," he said. “International law makes clear that everyone has a responsibility to make sure children are protected in war. Yet explosive weapons continue to kill, maim and terrorise children in their homes, schools and even in hospitals. We can and must do more to protect children in conflict."

Ahead of Australia's federal election this Saturday, Save the Children is calling on the country's newly elected Prime Minister to "do more to protect children in conflict". This includes halting the export of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – both countries accused of committing war crimes against children in Yemen.

“It’s unthinkable that Australia could be supplying military assets that are potentially fuelling the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet," said Ronalds. "It’s time to stop the war on children.”

The report drew on UN data as well as a new review of child injury data commissioned by the Paediatric Blast Injury Partnership. The partnership has this week launched a world first field handbook to help doctors and surgeons working with children injured by explosive weapons. 

On 5th May Save the Children Australia launched a campaign marking its centenary called 'Stop the War on Children' which includes the placement of an installation in Melbourne’s Fawkner Park featuring a military tank and a bombed-out classroom. To find out more, head to www.stopthewaronchildren.org.au​.