The first six months of 2012 have seen a small decrease in civilian deaths and injuries from fighting in Afghanistan, says a UN midyear report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict released Wednesday. The report marks the first drop in civilian casualties in Afghanistan over the past five years.
“The United Nations welcomes the reduction in civilian casualties, but we must remember that Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed and injured at alarmingly high levels,” UN Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom said in a statement.
The UN found a 15% decrease in overall Afghan civilian casualties, with 1,145 civilians killed and 1,954 injured in the first half of 2012, compared to 1,510 killed and 2,144 injured during the same period last year.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says anti-government elements like the Taliban have so far been responsible for 80 percent of civilian casualties, killing 882 civilians and injuring 1 593 others. More than a third of civilian casualties inflicted by anti-government groups were caused by attacks with Improvised Explosive Devices.
“Victim-activated improvised explosive devices are illegal, as they fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants,” Haysom said in a statement. “This heinous weapon has killed or maimed the greatest number of Afghan civilians during the conflict and I call on the Taliban to cease their use.”
The report also found that Afghan and NATO military operations caused the death of 165 civilians and injured 131, a 25% reduction from 2011. However, over half of the civilian casualties caused pro-government forces were a result of NATO aerial bombardments, with women and children representing more than 65% of the dead and injured from those operations
The UN report calls on international military forces to contiue reviewing tactical directives and operational procedures to prevent the incidental civilian deaths and injuries.
Meanwhile, the report also voices concern over an increased number of attacks on local schools by the Taliban and anti-government groups and their impact of access to education for Afghan children, especially girls. The UN mission was able to confirm attacks on at least 34 schools during the reporting period, including arson attacks, targeted killings, forced closures and intimidation of teachers and schools officials.