The highest number of women and children on record were killed or wounded by the conflict in Afghanistan during the first six months of the year, according to a new U.N. report.
The number of women who died or were injured jumped 23 percent in the six months to June, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) study showed. From January to June, 164 women were killed and 395 were wounded, according to the report. Child casualties swelled by 13 percent during the same period with 320 killed and 950 injured.
“The cold statistics of civilian casualties do not adequately capture the horror of violence in Afghanistan, the torn bodies of children, mothers and daughters, sons and fathers,” Nicholas Haysom, head of UNAMI, said in the report’s introduction. “The statistics in this report do not reveal the grieving families and the loss of shocked communities of ordinary Afghans. These are the real consequences of the conflict in Afghanistan.”
U.N. officials said the significant increase in casualties among women and children could be blamed on a combination of factors, including more ground fighting — the leading cause of civilian casualties — and a rise in the use of indiscriminate weapons.
Ninety percent of all civilians casualties resulted from ground engagements, improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks and targeted killings, the report said.
Overall, civilian casualties rose one percent to a record 4,921 — 1,592 killed and 3,329 injured. These numbers have been rising steadily, and are up dramatically from the first six months in 2009, when 1,439 civilians were killed or maimed. The U.N. began to systematically compile casualty counts in 2009.
One in four of the casualties in the war is a child, the UN said.
The Afghan government has been battling militants since the Taliban was toppled by U.S.-backed forces in 2001, but civilian casualties have risen since U.S. forces started withdrawing from the battlefield. There are roughly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, most of whom are set to exit the country by the end of 2016.
“Afghan civilians have suffered far too long from this destructive conflict,” said Haysom. “The devastating consequences of this violence against civilians as documented in this report should serve to strengthen the broad conviction that peace is urgently needed.”