The number of Afghans killed or injured in the first six months of 2016 has set a new record in the number of casualties in the nation.
A United Nations report released on Monday found 5,166 civilians had been killed and wounded in the period between January 1 and June 30, 2016. Of the total, 1,601 civilians were killed. A further 3,565 were left injured by the ongoing conflict.
That figure represents a four per cent increase from the same period in 2015.
“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,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Children at risk
This year’s figures include 1,509 child casualties – 388 deaths and 1,121 injuries.
The United Nations described the number of child casualties, the highest number since they first began tracking casualty rates in 2009, "alarming and shameful."
Of the child casualties, 85 per cent were caused by improvised explosive devices and other explosive remnants of war.
Once again, the armed opposition were reported to have been responsible for the highest rate of casualties. According to the report, armed opposition groups, including the Taliban, were responsible for 60 per cent of all civilian casualties in the first half of 2016.
Pro-government forces were responsible for 23 per cent of all casualties; 1,180 in total. This figure represents a 47 per cent increase over last year. The rise in casualties caused by pro-government forces is attributed to ground engagements.
International forces were responsible for one per cent of all civilian casualties.
The most notable instance of civilian deaths and injuries by foreign forces came in October, when a US airstrike on a hospital run by the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières in the northern city of Kunduz led to 42 deaths, including 24 patients and their caretakers. That airstrike also led to the destruction of the hospital, which was considered the best medical facility in the north of the country.
In February, a Swedish aid group reported Afghan and international forces entering one of their clinics in the eastern province of Maidan Wardak. That raid, according to the Swedish Committee of Afghanistan, led to the execution of three people by Afghan Army forces, whom the aid group says were accompanied by NATO forces.
According to a statement released by the aid group, hospital staff were "arrested and beaten," in what they called “a gross violation of humanitarian principles and the Geneva Convention, which states that all parties to a conflict must respect medical facilities.”
The Kabul government said the three killed, including a boy, had ties to the armed opposition.
As part of their recommendations, UNAMA called on government sources to: "Immediately cease the use of schools, hospitals and other medical facilities for military purposes, and ensure respect for medical facilities as neutral facilities. Ensure that all persons have access to the highest attainable standards of education and health care."
In a statement to TRT World, MSF reiterated UNAMA's call, saying, "We must be assured that MSF staff can safely provide medical care based solely on medical needs, without discrimination and regardless of their religious, political or military affiliations.”
Guilhem Molinie, the MSF country representative in Afghanistan, said this assurance is especially important as their trauma hospital in Kunduz remains closed nearly 10 months after the attack.
"Before making a decision about putting our staff back to work in Kunduz, we need explicit agreement from all parties in the conflict, including the Afghan authorities and the US military, that there will be no military interference or use of force against MSF facilities, personnel, patients and ambulances."
The report's publication comes just days after two bombings at a protest in Kabul led to 80 deaths and more than 200 injuries. The United Nations called that attack, claimed by a group claiming allegiance to DAESH, the single worst violent incident in the nation since 2001.
The European Union referred to last week's attack in their statement regarding the findings of the UN report.
"The horrific attack on the civilian protesters in Kabul on Saturday showed that use of indiscriminate and random attacks kills and injures more and more innocent Afghans. This is a clear breach of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately. The increasing trend of civilian casualties must be reversed," European Union Special Representative and Head of Delegation to Afghanistan Ambassador Franz-Michae Mellbin said in a statement.