Takhar leaders renew calls for stronger measures to protect civilians

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TALOQAN - Protecting civilians is the responsibility of all parties to the conflict, stressed panelists in a UN-backed radio programme in Taloqan, the capital of the north-eastern Takhar province.

In an in-depth discussion later broadcast on local radio, panelists from human rights advocacy groups, the provincial governor’s office and security institutions discussed measures to protect civilians in compliance with international human rights and humanitarian laws.

In recent years, tens of thousands of civilians have lost their lives or suffered injuries in the ongoing conflict, according to the latest annual UN report documenting the impact of the armed conflict on civilians in Afghanistan.

“Protecting civilians is a matter we take seriously in Takhar,” said Sunatulla Timor, an official from the governor’s office, adding that provincial officials have been working actively to put in place measures to reduce civilian casualties.

UNAMA documented a total of 10,453 civilian casualties - 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured - in 2017 alone. The impact of such casualties on communities and families across Afghanistan has been immense.

“The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war’s impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, in a press release launching the UNAMA report.

Organized by the UNAMA regional office in Kunduz, the Takhar radio discussion was part of a series of programmes, and was broadcast by Radio Raihan to an audience estimated at 150,000 in and around Taloqan.

Similar programmes were produced across the northeast, in Baghlan, Badakhshan and Kunduz, as part of a country-wide outreach initiative aimed at creating platforms for local communities to engage in dialogue on key issues.

UNAMA’s annual report, released last month, makes several recommendations, including urging parties to the conflict to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and civilian installations. In addition, it calls on anti-government elements to cease the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects and the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of all IEDs.