Deteriorating security across Afghanistan in the past four years led to over 14,000 grave violations against children, including nearly 3,500 youngsters killed and over 9,000 injured, according to a United Nations report circulated on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the alarming level of grave violations committed by all parties and the fact that children continue to bear the brunt of the armed conflict.
Of serious concern, he said, is that the nearly 12,600 children verified to have been killed or injured in 2015-2018 represented almost a third of all civilian casualties. That was an increase of 82 per cent in child casualties compared with the previous four years, he wrote. Guterres said in his fourth report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan that the rise was traced to an increase in child casualties resulting from ground engagements, explosive remnants of war and aerial attacks.
The UN chief said he is extremely concerned, especially by the number of children killed and injured as a result of aerial operations conducted by government and pro-government forces.
According to the report, child casualties from airstrikes have significantly increased since 2015, reversing the downward trend of the four preceding years. The UN verified 1,049 child casualties from airstrikes in 2015-2018, including 464 youngsters killed. That represented 40pc of civilian casualties from aerial attacks, the report said.
Guterres said armed groups were responsible for 43pc of child casualties — 3,450 killed and 9,149 injured. While Taliban fighters were responsible for the majority, the number attributed to the militant Islamic State (IS) group increased overall during the four-year period, he said.
Government and pro-government forces were responsible for 30pc of child casualties, he said.
Guterres said the UN also verified the recruitment and use of 274 children by armed groups and government forces, sexual violence against 13 boys and four girls, and 467 attacks on schools and education personnel.
The secretary-general said the actual number of children recruited and used in the Afghan conflict is estimated to be much higher, citing as an example allegations in 2016 that over 3,000 children were recruited, mainly by armed groups.