Kabul – Civilian deaths in Afghanistan fell 13 per cent while injuries saw an 11-per-cent increase in the first three months of the year compared to the same period of 2015, the UN said Sunday, as government forces continued to battle a powerful Taliban insurgency.
The latest figures take the total number of civilian casualties since 2009 to over 60,000, according a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Some 600 people were killed and 1,343 people were injured between 1 January and 31 March 2016 – an overall rise of 2 per cent – compared to 688 killed and 1,210 injured during the same period last year, the report said.
UNAMA noted that casualties – including deaths and injuries – among children had seen a sharp increase of 29 per cent, to 610.
“In the first quarter of 2016, almost one third of civilian casualties were children,” said Danielle Bell, UNAMA’s human rights director.
“If the fighting persists near schools, playgrounds, homes and clinics, and parties continue to use explosive weapons in those areas – particularly mortars and IED [improvised explosive device] tactics, these appalling numbers of children killed and maimed will continue.”
The report states that 60 per cent of the casualties were caused by anti-government forces while government forces caused 19 per cent.
Most of the remaining casualties could not be attributed definitively to either side.
“Even if a conflict intensifies, it does not have to be matched by corresponding civilian suffering provided parties take their international humanitarian law and human rights obligations seriously,” said Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.
“Failure to respect humanitarian obligations will result in more suffering in a nation that has suffered enough.”
While releasing the report, the mission called “on all parties to the conflict to take precautions to protect civilians during operations.”
Civilian casualties may continue to rise as Taliban have intensified their operations against government forces since the launch of their spring offensive.
The nationwide offensive has since Friday seen intense fighting in several areas of northern Kunduz province, which was briefly captured by the group last year.