Afghans gather on the border with Pakistan after the Taliban seized control of the Afghan side Image: Asghar Achakzai/AFP/Getty Images
UN warns of spike in Afghan civilian deaths
July 26, 2021
In a new report, the UN says there has been a sharp increase in the deaths of women and children in Afghanistan. The Taliban is seeking to expand its territory, with devastating consequences for civilians.
More than 1,500 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2021, almost half of whom were women and children, the United Nations said in a new report Monday.
It is the sharpest documented increase in killings for those months since the UN began keeping track of Afghan civilian deaths and casualties in 2009.
Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN mission in the country, said: "I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict's grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians."
"Unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," she added.
Without a "significant de-escalation of violence," 2021 is set to be the most devastating year for civilian casualties in over a decade, the report said.
How bad is it for Afghan civilians?
Of the 1,659 civilians killed and 3,254 wounded in the first half of 2021, 46% were women and children. Almost one-third were children, with 468 killed and 1,214 wounded. Women accounted for roughly 14%, with 219 killed and 508 wounded.
The UN said there was a particularly sharp rise in casualties in May and June, when US and NATO troops began their withdrawal and fighting escalated across the country. In those two months alone, 783 people were killed and 1,609 were wounded.
Much of the violence has taken place outside of cities in rural districts. But the UN voiced concern that when the battles eventually reach cities, the consequences for civilians will be catastrophic.
An attack on the Sayed ul-Shuhuda school in the capital Kabul in early May resulted in 85 deaths and over 300 civilian casualties, most of them young girls. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
There has also been a resurgence of sectarian attacks on the minority Shia Hazara community, resulting in 143 deaths.