The UN reveals increasing numbers of civilian casualties in Afghanistan since the beginning of the peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.
Since the start of peace talks in September between the Afghan government and the Taliban, civilian casualties have soared in Afghanistan despite an overall drop in civilians being killed and injured in 2020.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)’s report highlights that civilian casualties soared in the last quarter of the year despite an optimistic start.
Over the last year, UNAMA documented 8,820 casualties, 3,035 killed and 5,785 injured.
Deborah Lyons, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, described the continued loss of lives in the decades-long conflict as “devastating.”
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of women and children, who made up 43 percent of all civilian casualties,” Lyons added.
Last year, women and children made up 3,765 of the total casualties.
She urged parties on the negotiating table to end the conflict and told them “not to squander another day and not let more Afghan perish so senselessly.”
UNAMA also noted with concern that in 2020, “Pro-Government Forces were responsible for more child deaths than Anti-Government Elements.”
There was a near 15 percent reduction in the number of civilian casualties recorded in 2019, which marks “the lowest number” since 2013.
However, the last quarter of 2020 marked a 45 percent rise in civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2019.
2,792 out of 8,820 casualties took place last year from October to December. In the fourth quarter, 891 Afghans were killed and 1,901 were injured in attacks.
According to UNAMA, more than 110,000 Afghans have been killed or injured amid the violence.
People had been targeted especially by the use of improvised explosive devices(IEDs).
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet brands Afghanistan as “the deadliest place in the world to be a civilian.”
Bachelet particularly underlined that “the high numbers of human rights defenders, journalists and media workers killed since the commencement of peace negotiations in September.”
The reports said women and children continued to be victims of “conflict-related sexual violence, including rape and bacha bazi” - the latter involves child sexual abuse between older men and young adolescent males or boys.
The recruitment and use of children in the conflict by the parties, mainly Taliban, continues to be a problem.
UNAMA reports “an increase in unemployment and poverty due to the Covid-19 pandemic have made children more vulner- able to recruitment and use by parties to the conflict, especially because they are forced to seek employment to support their families.”