A record number of women and children were killed or wounded in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2021, a UN report said Monday.
The country recorded a 47 percent increase in the number of casualties in the first half of this year, compared to last year — with 1,659 civilians killed and 3,254 wounded, according to the report.
Women and children accounted for almost half (46 percent) of the total civilian casualties. Thirty-two percent were children, with 468 killed and 1,214 wounded, and 14 percent were women, with 219 killed and 508 wounded.
This means more women and children were killed and wounded in Afghanistan in the first half of 2021 than in the first six months of any year since the United Nations began systematically keeping count in 2009.
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
“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,” she continued.
The report was released amid the backdrop of the Biden administration moving to withdraw US forces from the war-torn country by the end of August, and as the Taliban make rapid gains to control territory.
The UN report noted that casualties have increased dramatically since May — when the Taliban stepped up their military operations and the US and NATO began withdrawing forces.
The sobering report also predicted that Afghanistan will have the highest rate of civilian casualties in a single year in 2021 since it began keeping records in the country.
There were 2,392 civilian casualties, including 783 killed and 1,609 wounded In May and June, the highest rates for those months since systematic statistics began in 2009.
The report noted that much of the fighting in those months took place outside of the cities, but the UN warned that if the battles move to urban areas, the results could be cataclysmic for the Afghan people.
Lyons implored Taliban and Afghan leaders to find a way to end the violence.
“Stop the Afghan-against-Afghan fighting. Protect the Afghan people and give them hope for a better future,” she said.
The UN said anti-government forces were responsible for almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the civilian casualties, while the Taliban were responsible for 39 percent and the Islamic State was responsible for nearly 9 percent.
Sixteen percent of the casualties were undetermined.
Meanwhile, Afghan security forces were blamed for 23 percent of the casualties and pro-government armed groups for 2 percent.
The main cause of civilian casualties was improvised explosive devices, followed by fighting on the ground and targeted killings.