The United Nations on Monday called on all warring parties in Afghanistan to take urgent steps to halt the killing and maiming of civilians, as a new UN report revealed the highest ever number of civilian casualties in a single year, including record figures for children killed and injured in 2016.
The report documents 11,418 conflict-related civilian casualties, including 3,498 killed and 7,920 injured. Of these, 3,512 were children – 923 dead and 2,589 injured, up 24 per cent on the previous highest recorded figure. The figures, recorded by the Human Rights team of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), are the highest since the UN began systematically documenting civilian casualty figures in 2009.
“The killing and maiming of thousands of Afghan civilians is deeply harrowing and largely preventable,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “All parties to the conflict must take immediate concrete measures to protect the ordinary Afghan men, women and children whose lives are being shattered.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said the casualty figures painted a picture of the most vulnerable sectors of society paying the highest price.
“Children have been killed, blinded, crippled – or inadvertently caused the death of their friends – while playing with unexploded ordnance that is negligently left behind by parties to the conflict. Women continue to be brutally punished in parallel so-called ‘justice’ processes while religious minorities are targeted as they pray in their mosques,” Zeid said.
Yamamoto and Zeid called on all parties to minimise the use of explosive weapons in areas populated by civilians and to ensure explosive remnants of war are removed. They also stressed the need for accountability and justice for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.