Afghanistan Humanitarian Bulletin Issue 49 | 01 – 29 February 2016

Situation Report
Originally published
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  • Conflict related civilian casualties

  • FEWS NET agroclimatic outlook and analysis

  • DACAAR WASH project in Kunar, Nangarhar and Paktya Provinces

  • PIN cash grants help earthquake-affected families in Baghlan Province survive the winter

  • Bamyan Province winter distributions

  • Goodbye CHF, hello AHF

Civilian casualties: a new high in 2015

The number of conflict-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan during 2015 was the highest recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since its systematic documentation of civilian casualties began in 2009.

According to UNAMA’s 2015 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, produced in coordination with the UN Human Rights Office, the increased fighting in and around populated areas, along with suicide and other forms of attack on major cities, were the main causes of conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries in 2015.

Brutal and unprincipled attacks

UNAMA documented 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths and 7,457 injured) in 2015.
These figures exceeded the previous record levels of civilian casualties that occurred in 2014 by four per cent.

“The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer brutal and unprincipled attacks that are forbidden under international law,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “This is happening with almost complete impunity. The perpetrators of the violations, documented by UNAMA and my staff, must be held to account. And the international community should emphasize far more vigorously that the rights of civilians should be protected.”

Deliberate and indiscriminate tactics

Non-state armed groups (NSAG) continued to cause the most harm – 62 per cent of all civilian casualties – despite a 10 per cent reduction from 2014 in the total civilian casualties resulting from their attacks. However, the reduction in NSAG caused casualties must be considered in the context of an increase in unattributed casualties. UNAMA’s report also documented the increasing use of NSAG tactics that deliberately or indiscriminately cause civilian harm, including targeted killings of civilians, complex and suicide attacks, as well as the use of illegal pressure-plate improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

17 per cent of civilian deaths and injuries were reported to have been caused by “pro-Government Forces” – 14 per cent from Afghan security forces, two per cent from international military forces, and one per cent from pro-Government armed groups.

17 per cent of civilian casualties could not be attributed to any specific party to the conflict with unattributed explosive remnants of war causing four per cent of civilian casualties. Cross-border shelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan caused less than half of 1 per cent of recorded civilian casualties.

Ground engagements between parties to the conflict caused 4,137 civilian casualties (1,116 deaths and 3,021 injured) – a 15 per cent increase from 2014 – and the leading cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. IEDs caused 2,368 civilian casualties (713 deaths and 1,655 injured). Although this represents a 20 per cent decrease over 2014 figures, IEDs still remain the second leading cause of conflict related civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

Increased targeting of health facilities and personnel in 2015….and beyond

The UNAMA report also highlighted an increase in the number of conflict-related incidents where hospitals, clinics and health personnel had been deliberately targeted. The report documented 63 incidents against hospitals and health personnel by NSAG – a 47 per cent increase compared with 2014. It also called for an independent, impartial, transparent and effective investigation into the 3 October airstrike by International Military Forces on the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz.

By way of a postscript to the 2015 report, this month’s Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin provides a timely reminder that, tragically, attacks on and near health facilities continue in 2016. On 18 February, Afghan Ministry of Interior Special Forces and the international military conducted a joint operation in the Tangi Sayedan area of Daymirdad District of Wardak Province during which a government health clinic funded by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan was entered, the clinic manager tied up and, along with other medical personnel were forced into a room. Thereafter, according to a statement issued by UNAMA, two patients and a 15-year-old boy who was visiting the clinic were taken to a nearby shop and summarily executed. On 22 February, in the Sia Gird District of Parwan Province, a suicide attacker targeting Afghan security forces detonated an improvised explosive device in the proximity of a district health clinic. A UNAMA statement reported that seven civilians were killed and seven others were injured by the blast.

Following these two incidents the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and the Secretary­General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden issued a public statement in which he reiterated that “medical facilities, medical personnel, and those who are receiving treatment, for disease or conflict-related injuries, must never be placed at risk, let alone subject to attack. The work that humanitarian and medical personnel carry out must not be restricted, and all parties to the conflict must abstain from actions that may place these persons or facilities at risk.”

2016 Afghanistan agroclimatic outlook

El Niño typically results in above-average precipitation in Central Asia, however precipitation levels recorded in Afghanistan through to the end of February were belowaverage. Although near-average precipitation for Afghanistan is forecast through the remainder of the wet season the seasonal accumulation of precipitation is likely to be below-average, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). With near-surface air temperatures expected to be above-average until the end of May 2016, blooming is likely to occur earlier than usual this year. This increases the risk of damage to tree crops in the event of freezing or frost. Meanwhile, the availability of water for irrigation is likely to be below-normal in most areas of Afghanistan from March to August. FEWS NET has predicted that, if the trend of high seasonal temperatures coupled with low precipitation continues, the country’s second crop of rice, maize and vegetables will be adversely affected. 2016 food prices are expected to be higher than average, albeit similar to 2015 due to a stable supply of imports from neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Iran. Preharvest assessments are expected to begin in mid-April in the country’s 34 provinces and further updates on this issue will be provided in subsequent Monthly Humanitarian Bulletins.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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