The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed shock on Monday at the rapid escalation of grave violations against children in Afghanistan, following the deaths of 27 children in the country in the past 72 hours, and 136 who were injured.
“The atrocities grow higher by the day,” warned UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Hervé Ludovic De Lys, in a statement. “All of them are children whose right to protection, under international humanitarian law, has been disregarded by warring parties.”
‘People have suffered enough’
Newly appointed UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, joined the condemnation of attacks against civilians in Afghanistan by UN chief António Guterres and members of the Security Council.
In a statement, Mr Griffiths said “fighting across the country, which has claimed the lives of over 40,000 people since 2009 when UN reporting began, needs to stop. People have suffered enough.”
More than 1,000 people have been killed or injured due to indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Hilmand, Kandahar and Hirat provinces in the last month alone.
In just the past 72 hours reported UNICEF, 20 children were killed and 130 children injured in Kandahar province; two children were killed with three injured in Khost province; and in Paktia province, five were killed and a further three were injured.
On Friday Special Representative Deborah Lyons, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) warned that the war in Afghanistan is now in “a new, deadlier, and more destructive phase”, and appealed for the Security Council to act to avert a catastrophe.
Ahead of talks in Qatar next week, and the Council’s next meeting on Afghanistan in September, Ms. Lyons urged ambassadors to seize the opportunity to address the deteriorating situation in the country.
Mr Griffiths reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, including their responsibility to protect civilians.
He highlighted the need to ensure access for humanitarian organizations to reach people in need. Humanitarian organizations are committed to stay and deliver relief and assistance to all civilians, he said, but they need unimpeded access and assurances that aid workers and service providers can deliver aid and services without interference. A safe, secure, and sustainable future in Afghanistan can only be achieved through successful peace negotiations, he said.
Mr De Lys said the atrocities are also evidence of “the brutal nature and scale of violence in Afghanistan which preys on already vulnerable children.” The UNICEF spokesperson said he was also “deeply concerned” about reports that children are increasingly being recruited into the conflict in Afghanistan by armed groups.
Many other boys and girls are “deeply traumatized” after witnessing atrocities committed against their families and others in their communities, he added.
Only a “complete end of hostilities can protect Afghanistan’s children, he said, calling on “all those engaged in mediation efforts to uphold the warring parties to their international obligations to children.”