Conflict-related violence exacted a heavy toll on Afghanistan in 2016, with an overall deterioration in civilian protection and the highest total civilian casualties recorded since 2009 when UNAMA began systematic documentation of civilian casualties. Against a backdrop of protracted ground fighting, the battlefielde permeated civilian sanctuaries that should be spared from harm, with suicide attacks in mosques; targeted attacks against district centres, bazaars and residential homes; and the use of schools and hospitals for military purposes.
Between 1 January and 31 December, UNAMA documented 11,418 civilian casualties (3,498 deaths and 7,920 injured); marking a two per cent decrease in civilian deaths and six per cent increase in civilians injured. These figures amount to a three per cent increase in total civilian casualties compared to 2015. Since 2009, the armed conflict in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 24,841 civilians and injured 45,347 others.
In 2016, UNAMA documented record numbers of civilian casualties from ground engagements, suicide and complex attacks and explosive remnants of war, as well as the highest number of civilian casualties caused by aerial operations since 2009. Increases in civilian deaths and injuries from these tactics drove the overall three per cent rise in civilian casualties, while civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and targeted and deliberate killings decreased.
As in 2015, ground engagements between Anti-Government Elements and Pro-Government Forces, particularly in areas populated or frequented by civilians, remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by IEDs, suicide and complex attacks and targeted and deliberate killings.
The conflict severely impacted Afghan children in 2016. UNAMA recorded 3,512 child casualties (923 deaths and 2,589 injured), a 24 per cent increase from 2015, and the highest number of child casualties recorded by UNAMA in a single year. The disproportionate rise in child casualties across Afghanistan in 2016 resulted mainly from a 66 per cent increase in civilian casualties from explosive remnants of war – most of whom were children.
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