UN reports record high level of civilian casualties in Afghanistan

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KABUL (TCA) — A UN report on Afghanistan published on July 25 shows a record number of civilian casualties since counting began in 2009, with 5,166 civilians recorded killed or maimed in just the first six months of this year, of whom almost one-third were children. The total civilian casualty figure recorded by the UN between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2016 has risen to 63,934, including 22,941 deaths and 40,993 injured, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

Between January and June this year, the Human Rights team of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 1,601 civilian deaths and 3,565 injured civilians. This represents an increase of four percent in the total number of casualties compared to the first six months of 2015 – and is the highest half-year total since 2009.  

This year’s casualties include 1,509 children (388 dead and 1,121 injured) – a figure the UN Human Rights Chief described as “alarming and shameful”.

There were also 507 women casualties (130 killed and 377 injured). The figures are conservative – almost certainly underestimates – given the strict methodology employed in their documentation and in determining the civilian status of those affected.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA Tadamichi Yamamoto stressed that the report must serve as a call to action by parties to the conflict “to do all they can to spare civilians from the horrors of war.”

“Every single casualty documented in this report – people killed while praying, working, studying, fetching water, recovering in hospitals – every civilian casualty represents a failure of commitment and should be a call to action for parties to the conflict to take meaningful, concrete steps to reduce civilians’ suffering and increase protection,” Yamamoto said. “Platitudes not backed by meaningful action ring hollow over time. History and the collective memory of the Afghan people will judge leaders of all parties to this conflict by their actual conduct.”

While anti-Government elements remain responsible for the majority – 60 percent – of civilian casualties, there was an increase in the number of civilians killed and injured by pro-Government forces between January and June this year. During this period, UNAMA documented 1,180 civilian casualties attributable to pro-Government forces, which is 23 percent of the total so far this year, but a 47 percent increase compared to the same period last year, primarily as a result of ground engagements.

Ground engagements continue to cause the highest number of civilian casualties, followed by complex and suicide attacks and improved explosive devices (IEDs). Explosive remnants of war disproportionately impacted children who comprised 85 per cent of the casualties caused by such devices.

Sergey Kwan

TCA