'Alarming' Number of Child Deaths Push Afghan Casualties to Record High
Victims include 1,509 children – a third of the total – a grim indicator of growing insecurity
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan reached a record high in the first half of 2016, the UN has said, with children in particular paying a heavy price as insurgent groups stepped up the fighting.
The UN report, which comes two days after the deadliest attack in Kabul since 2001, cited ground combat between militants and Nato-backed Afghan forces as the leading cause of casualties.
Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 wounded – a 4% increase in casualties compared with the same period last year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) said.
Casualties have reached their highest level since the UN began issuing its authoritative reports in 2009. Victims of the fighting include 1,509 children – roughly one-third of the total – a figure the UN described as “alarming and shameful”.
The statistics are a grim indicator of growing insecurity in Afghanistan as the Taliban step up their nationwide insurgency and Islamic State seeks to expand its foothold in the east of the country.
“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 steps to reduce civilians’ suffering,” the head of Unama, Tadamichi 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.”
The UN report said insurgent groups including the Taliban were responsible for the majority – 60% – of civilian casualties.
But it also reported a 47% increase in the number of casualties caused by pro-government forces, compared with the same period last year.
“The testimony of victims and their families brings into agonising focus the tragedy of ... this protracted conflict since 2009,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
“The family that lost a breadwinner, forcing the children to leave school and struggle to make ends meet; the driver who lost his limbs, depriving him of his livelihood; the man who went to the bazaar to shop for his children only to return home to find them dead.”
The report comes after the deadliest attack in 15 years in Kabul killed 80 people and left hundreds maimed, in an assault claimed by Isis.
The twin bombings on Saturday tore through crowds of minority Shia Hazaras as they gathered to demand that a multimillion-dollar power line pass through their electricity-starved province of Bamiyan, one of the most deprived areas of Afghanistan.
Source: The Guardian