A UN report on Wednesday showed that at least 573 civilians were killed and 1,210 others wounded in the first three months of 2021, which is a 29 per cent increase as compared to the same period last year.
The report said that “extraordinary levels of harm inflicted on civilians” in the Afghan conflict continues unabated, Tolo news reported.
Of particular concern is the 37 per cent increase in the number of women killed and injured, and a 23 per cent increase in child casualties compared with the first quarter of 2020, the report said.
“The number of Afghan civilians killed and maimed, especially women and children, is deeply disturbing. I implore the parties to urgently find a way to stop this violence,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
In the six months between October 2020 and March 2021, UNAMA recorded a 38 percent increase in civilian casualties compared with the same period one year earlier, the report said, adding that it is worth noting that in February 2020, both Afghan government forces and the Taliban agreed to a week’s reduction in violence, which immediately and significantly reduced the scale of harm to Afghan civilians, demonstrating that political commitment can save Afghan lives.
“Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized. If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021,” said Lyons.
The report said that the overall increase in civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2021 was mainly driven by the same trends that caused the increase at the end of last year: ground engagements; improvised explosive devices; and targeted killings.
Anti-government elements continued to be responsible for the majority (61 per cent) of all civilian casualties in the first three months of 2021, while the pro-government forces continued to cause approximately one quarter (27 per cent) of the total civilian casualties, the report added.
According to the report, in the first three months of 2021, UNAMA documented increases in the number of civilian casualties as compared to the first quarter of 2020, attributed to both the Afghan army and the Taliban, with the Taliban responsible for 43.5 per cent of all civilian casualties, and the Afghan national army responsible for 17 per cent.