The victims of war

The main casualties of war include:

  • servicemen and women who lose their lives or are injured
  • civilians who lose their lives or are injured
  • civilians who have their families, homes and way of life damaged or destroyed
  • a country's infrastructure, eg roads and bridges which are destroyed
  • refugees who have to flee their country of birth to find safety
Estimated number of military and civilian fatalities in major UK conflicts since WW2.Estimated number of military and civilian fatalities in major UK conflicts since World War TwoCAIN WEB SERVICE; MOD; CNN, ALL RETRIEVED 2013


A refugee is a person who is forced to flee from his or her country because of intolerable living conditions. These are often the result of persecution, war or other violence. Some are forced to flee with no warning and many have experienced significant trauma, perhaps witnessing the death of family members or the destruction of their home. Refugees are protected by international humanitarian law when they are in a state involved in an armed conflict. They must not be returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.

Child soldiers

International law prohibits young people under the age of 18 taking part in armed conflict, and the use of children under the age of 15 is considered a war crime. However, throughout the world tens of thousands of children – some as young as 9 or 10 years old – are given weapons and forced to fight for government armed forces or paramilitaries. The United Nations defines child soldiers as 'children associated with armed forces and groups', or 'CAAFAG' for short. Not all children have armed roles in these groups, so referring to them as 'child soldiers' isn't always accurate as they may be used in any capacity - including as spies, messengers, porters, servants or for sexual purposes.

Innocent civilians

During the past 60 years the main victims of war have been civilians. Civilians are often caught in the crossfire or killed in bombings simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. With infrastructure destroyed, many people die through illness due to lack of clean water or food. Others become traumatised because of the atrocities they have witnessed and may suffer from long term mental illness. Civilians are protected during armed conflict by international humanitarian law. They should be shielded from all forms of violence and degrading treatment, including murder and torture.