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30% increase in Afghan child casualties

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The year 2013 saw a 30-per-cent increase in the number of children killed or injured in fighting in Afghanistan compared with 2012, UNICEF reported Thursday.

UNICEF officials in Afghanistan expressed concern with the sharp spike, initially reported by the United Nations Security Council in May. At least 545 children were killed and 1,149 injured in Afghanistan during 2013, according to the report. Most casualties were caused by improvised explosives, landmines and suicide bombings.

“We are deeply concerned about the significant increase in child casualties and the devastating impact that the conflict continues to have on children’s safety, health and education in Afghanistan,” Akhil Iyer, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan said.

Armed opposition groups, including the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami, were responsible for 889 casualties, the report said. Pro-government forces and international military forces were responsible for 206 casualties, mainly occurring during violent clashes. International military airstrikes killed 37 children and injured 19. Schools and medical facilities continue to be directly targeted by parties to the conflict or indirectly damaged in armed clashes.

“Approximately 115,000 children were affected by the temporary or permanent closure of 539 schools due to insecurity, with the largest number affected in the southern region,” the report said.

“Over 60 teachers and health care personnel were killed or injured, abducted or intimidated in 2013.”

The UN said that recruitment and use of the children as combatants and for other purposes remained a major concern, with 97 cases registered last year. Iyer called on all conflict parties to ensure the protection of children in accordance with international humanitarian law and to refrain from all actions that impact health, education and other crucial services. SAPA

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