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AFGHANISTAN: UN highlights conflict's impact on civilians

KABUL, 16 August 2007 (IRIN) - Armed conflict in Afghanistan has not only caused hundreds of civilian deaths but has also had a negative impact on many aspects of people’s lives, according to a senior UN official.

“Beyond civilian casualties, people have lost their houses, children have been deprived of education, livelihoods have been damaged, and displaced families face many problems,” Walter Kalin, representative of the UN Secretary-General for the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), told IRIN on 15 August.

Since April, over 1,060 civilians have died in armed conflicts between Taliban insurgents and Afghan security forces backed by international troops, according to a confidential report prepared by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior.

The number of people dying in conflict-related violence has doubled in the last two years, the UN said.

Taliban fighters have been condemned for consistently and systematically violating international humanitarian laws in their hit-and-run insurgency, since 2002.

However, civilian deaths in military operations conducted by international forces - particularly US troops operating outside NATO writ - and their Afghan allies have roughly balanced that of the Taliban.

About 80,000 IDPs

While many volatile areas in Afghanistan remain inaccessible to international aid organisations, the UN estimates that some 80,000 people have been displaced by insecurity, predominantly in the south, southwest and east of the country.

Kalin, the UN representative for the human rights of IDPs, who was unable to visit IDP camps in the south of Afghanistan due to insecurity, has asked the world body and the government of Afghanistan to do more to assist people displaced in the conflict.

“There is lack of a comprehensive strategy with different instruments in place that can meet the needs of IDPs,” Kalin said.

At a three day UN-sponsored workshop on the protection of civilians in Kabul, held on 13-15 August, representatives of families affected in the war complained about the problems they face during and after displacements.

“People live in disastrous conditions at IDP camps in Helmand and Kandahar provinces,” said Qasim Agha, adding that IDPs lack drinking water, and jobs, and face food insecurity and poor access to health and education services.


Neither the US-NATO forces in Afghanistan nor the Taliban compensate those affected in the fighting. The government of Afghanistan, however, often makes ad hoc condolence and sympathy payments to families who lose members in conflicts and natural disasters.

A spokesman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) told IRIN it had asked the country’s Supreme Court to issue a ‘fatwa’ - an Islamic edict - in which the issue of `diyat’ (compensatory payment for the death or loss of any part of a human body) would be made obligatory for all warring parties.

People in conflict-affected provinces have also demanded compensation for their houses and property damaged in military operations, according to the AIHRC.

“IDPs have rights and among those rights is property protection. People who had to flee in a conflict should have the right of voluntary return… to have their houses reconstructed and compensation paid in cases of damage,” said Kalin.

Meanwhile, Afghan civilians continue to bear the brunt of an “alarming increase” in violence, Tom Keonigs, special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan, told participants of a workshop on civilian protection.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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