Civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit a record high in the first half of 2016, the UN has said, with a particular surge in the number of children killed or wounded.
The report, released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Monday, said there were 5,166 documented civilian casualties in the first half of 2016, an increase of four percent in total civilian casualties as compared to the first six months of 2015.
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One-third of casualties between January and June were children, with 388 killed and 1,121 wounded, 18 percent more than in the first half of 2015, a figure the UN described as “alarming and shameful”.
The numbers are at their highest level since the UN began issuing its reports in 2009.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said the report should serve as a call to action by parties to the conflict “to do all they can to spare civilians from the horrors of war”.
“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 steps to reduce civilians’ suffering,” UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto said.
“Platitudes not backed by meaningful action ring hollow over time. History and the collective memory of the Afghan people will judge leaders of all parties to this conflict by their actual conduct.”
The statistics are seen as an indicator of growing insecurity in Afghanistan as the Taliban stepped up a nationwide campaign against the government and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group tried to expand its foothold in the east of the country.
Twin blasts on Saturday that killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 230, most of them civilians, were claimed by ISIL.
Those deaths were not included in the UN report, but the attack highlighted its finding that suicide bombings and complex attacks are now harming more civilians than roadside bombs.
For the first time, the Afghan air force killed or wounded more civilians in its operations than air strikes carried out by foreign forces, according to UN.
In the first half of this year, UNAMA documented 1,180 civilian casualties attributable to pro-government forces, or 23 percent of the total. It said this was a 47 percent increase compared to the same period last year, primarily as a result of an increase in violence across the country.
“Ground engagements continue to cause the highest number of civilian casualties, followed by complex and suicide attacks and improved explosive devices (IEDs),” the report says.
“Explosive remnants of war disproportionately impacted children who comprised 85 percent of the casualties caused by such devices.”
Afghanistan remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, after almost 40 years of conflict.
UNAMA highlighted that during the first half of this year, it recorded 157,987 “newly displaced” people, a 10 percent increase on the same period last year, bringing the total estimate of people displaced by conflict to 1.2 million.
The UN began tracking civilian casualties in 2009 and more than 22,941 deaths and 40,993 injuries have been recorded since.