The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released figures on Thursday which shows record-high levels of civilian casualties in the third quarter of 2019 indicate an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to do more to protect civilians from harm.
The UNAMA in a press release said, “Overall, in the first nine months of 2019, UNAMA documented 8,239 civilian casualties (2,563 killed and 5,676 injured) – similar high levels of harm experienced by Afghanistan’s civilian population in the corresponding nine-month periods from 2014 to the present. And in the latest quarter, UNAMA documented an unprecedented number of civilian casualties.”
“Verified civilian casualties from 1 July to 30 September increased by 42 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2018. Moreover, in July, UNAMA documented the highest number of civilian casualties ever recorded in a single month since the United Nations began its systematic documentation of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009”, the press release reads.
UNAMA stated that after overall civilian casualty numbers declined in the first six months of this year, largely due to a decrease in the number of civilian casualties caused by anti-government elements, the sharp increase in the recent quarter is due most of all to the civilian casualties caused by anti-government elements.
“Civilian casualties at record-high levels clearly show the need for all parties concerned to pay much more attention to protecting the civilian population, including through a review of conduct during combat operations,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“The harm caused to civilians by the fighting in Afghanistan signals the importance of peace talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement to the conflict; there is no other way forward,” said Yamamoto, who is also head of UNAMA. “Civilian casualties are totally unacceptable, especially in the context of the widespread recognition that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
“During the nine-month period covered in the report, the combined use of suicide and non-suicide IEDs was the leading cause of civilian casualties, making up 42 per cent of the overall total. Ground engagements were the second leading cause of civilian casualties (29 per cent) followed by aerial attacks (11 per cent), which caused the majority of civilian deaths during the period”, the press release said.
UNAMA’s report indicates that from 1 January to 30 September, anti-government elements caused 5,117 civilian casualties (1,207 killed and 3,910 injured), accounting for 62 per cent of all civilian casualties during the period. UNAMA found that pro-government forces caused 2,348 civilian casualties (1,149 killed and 1,199 injured), a 26 per cent increase from the same period in 2018.
In addition to detailing civilian casualties and their causes, UNAMA’s latest report indicates that 41 per cent of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan were women and children.
“In the first nine months of 2019, UNAMA documented 923 women casualties (261 killed and 662 injured) and 2,461 child casualties (631 killed and 1,830 injured).”
“The impact of Afghanistan’s conflict on civilians is appalling; every verified number is a person, someone’s relative – mother, father, daughter, son,” said Fiona Frazer, UNAMA’s Human Rights Chief. “The United Nations will continue its advocacy work with all parties to the conflict until Afghanistan reaches the only acceptable number of civilians killed and injured in the conflict: zero.”
The United Nations reiterates its call for all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations to protect civilians from harm and strictly adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, at all times.