Resulting from a spike in violence in May that corresponded with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the civilian casualties reported in the country for the first half of 2021 have reached record levels, the UN said in a report released on Monday.
The UN has warned that without significant de-escalation, 2021 will witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since UNAMA recording began.
The UN report said that 1,659 civilians were killed and 3,254 others were wounded, which is a 47 percent increase compared to the same period in 2020.
Of serious concern is the acute rise in the number of civilians killed and injured in the period from May 1, with almost as many civilian casualties in the May-June period as recorded in the entire preceding four months, according to the report.
The number of civilian casualties during May and June –783 killed and 1,609 wounded--is the highest for those months since UNAMA began its systematic documentation in 2009.
The period January-April 2021 saw 2,791 civilian casualties (876 killed and 1,915 injured), said the UN.
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict's grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians. The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
The UN envoy, who is also the head of UNAMA, called on the Taliban and Afghan leaders to "intensify your efforts at the negotiating table, stop the Afghan against Afghan fighting" and to "protect the Afghan people and give them hope for a better future.”
“The pursuit of a military solution will only increase the suffering of the Afghan people,” the report said.
The UN urged the parties to follow their obligations under international law to protect civilians.
The report noted that what is“particularly shocking” and of "deep concern" is that women, boys and girls made up "close to half of all civilian casualties in the first half of 2021," it said.
“Comprising 46 percent of all civilian casualties, 32 percent were children – 1,682 in total (468 killed and 1,214 injured) and 14 percent were women – 727 in total (219 killed and 508 injured),” the report said, adding: “It is sickening to report that more women and more children were killed and wounded than ever before recorded by UNAMA for the first half of any calendar year.”
"Anti-Government Elements (AGEs) were responsible for 64 percent of the total civilian casualties: 39 percent by Taliban, nearly nine percent by Daesh and 16 percent by undetermined AGEs," the report said.
"Pro-Government Forces (PGFs) were responsible for 25 percent of civilian casualties: 23 percent by Afghan national security forces, and two percent by pro-Government armed groups or undetermined PGFs," according to the report.
UNAMA attributed 11 percent of all civilian casualties to "crossfire" during ground engagements where the exact party responsible could not be determined and other incident types, including unattributable unexploded ordnance/explosive remnants of war.
UNAMA is also concerned about the "increasing number of reports of killing, ill-treatment, persecution and discrimination in communities affected by the current fighting and its aftermath," the report said, adding that it is "particularly important, especially during times of heightened conflict, that all parties respect the human rights and dignity of people and prevent such abuses and violations."