KABUL, 24 February 2019 – More civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict last year than at
any time since records have been kept, according to a United Nations report released today
by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office. The
report documented 3,804 civilian deaths in 2018. Among the dead were 927 children, the
highest recorded number of boys and girls killed in the conflict during a single year.
In total, UNAMA documented 10,993 civilian casualties (3,804 deaths and 7,189 injured),
representing a five per cent increase in overall civilian casualties and an 11 per cent increase
in civilian deaths compared to 2017.
UNAMA attributed the majority of civilian casualties –63 per cent– to Anti-Government
Elements (AGEs), 37 per cent to Taliban, 20 per cent to Daesh/Islamic State Khorosan
Province (ISKP), and 6 per cent to undetermined AGEs. Pro-Government Forces caused 24
per cent of civilian casualties –14 per cent by Afghan national security forces, six per cent by
international military forces, as well as four per cent by other pro-Government armed groups
Key factors contributing to the significant increase in civilian casualties were a spike in suicide
attacks by AGEs, mainly Daesh/ISKP, as well as increased harm to civilians from aerial and
search operations by Pro-Government Forces. 2018 witnessed the highest number of civilian
casualties ever recorded from suicide attacks and aerial operations.
“The report’s rigorously researched findings show that the level of harm and suffering inflicted
on civilians in Afghanistan is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable,” said Tadamichi
Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “All parties need
to take immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of
civilians harmed and lives destroyed.”
Yamamoto, who also heads UNAMA added, “This is the UN’s tenth annual report documenting
the plight of civilians in the Afghan conflict –more than 32,000 civilians killed and around
60,000 injured in a decade. It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy. The best
way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting. That is why there is all
the more need now to use all our efforts to bring about peace. I urge all parties to seize every
opportunity to do so.”
“The conflict in Afghanistan continues to kill far too many civilians and has caused long-lasting
suffering, both physical and psychological, to countless others,” said UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. “The fact that the number of children killed this year is
the highest on record, is particularly shocking. In addition to the lives lost, the dire security
situation is preventing many Afghans from enjoying their economic, social and cultural rights,
with thousands of children already handicapped for life because of attacks on schools and
medical facilities,” Bachelet added. “So I call on all parties to the conflict to fully respect
international humanitarian and international human rights law to protect the lives of all
The armed conflict continues to have a severe impact on children and women, who made up
38 per cent of all civilian casualties. Child casualties represented 28 percent of all killed and
injured. UNAMA recorded 3,062 child casualties (927 deaths and 2,135 injured). While this
was a slight decrease compared to 2017, child deaths reached record high levels in 2018,
mainly due to the more than doubling of child deaths from aerial operations, as well as an
increase in child deaths from suicide attacks.
Anti-Government Elements caused 1,343 child casualties (324 deaths and 1,019 injured),
comprising 44 per cent of all child casualties in 2018. Pro-Government Forces caused 1,051
child casualties (414 deaths and 637 injured), comprising 34 per cent of overall child
Overall child casualty figures showed AGEs continued to cause most child casualties in 2018,
although it decreased by three per cent compared to 2017, while there was a 15 per cent
increase in child casualties attributed to Pro-Government Forces. UNAMA documented that
Pro-Government Forces were responsible for the deaths of 414 children in 2018, while AntiGovernment Elements were responsible for the deaths of 324 children in 2018.
Women casualties reduced by six per cent to 1,152 (350 deaths and 802 injured), resulting
mainly from the eight per cent decrease in women casualties from ground engagements.
Women comprised 10 per cent of conflict-related civilian casualties in 2018.
In the report, UNAMA acknowledges the efforts taken by the Afghan national security forces,
international military forces, and Taliban to protect civilians from harm caused. However, given
the scale and scope of civilian casualties that has continued at very high levels for years, it
emphasizes that more needs to be done.
Among its recommendations, the report urges Anti-Government Elements to cease the
deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects, as well as the indiscriminate and
disproportionate use of all IEDs. It calls on the Government of Afghanistan and international
military forces to strengthen their review of incidents involving allegations of civilian casualties
and ensure that effective reparations are provided for harm suffered. Beyond this, a halt in the
fighting by all parties is the only effective way to protect civilians.
UNAMA conducts reporting pursuant to its mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 2405 (2018):
“to monitor the situation of civilians, to coordinate efforts to ensure their protection, […] to promote
accountability, and to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights
provisions of the Afghan Constitution and international treaties to which Afghanistan is a State party, in
particular those regarding the full enjoyment by women of their human rights.” Resolution 2405 (2018)
recognizes the importance of on-going monitoring and reporting to the Security Council on the situation
of civilians in the armed conflict, particularly on civilian casualties.
UNAMA undertakes a range of activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the armed conflict on civilians
including: independent and impartial monitoring of incidents involving loss of life or injury to civilians;
advocacy to strengthen protection of civilians affected by the armed conflict; and initiatives to promote
compliance among all parties to the conflict with international humanitarian law and international human
rights law and the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan, including in particular respect for rights to life
and physical integrity.
Since 2009, UNAMA has been systematically documenting civilian casualties attributed to parties to the
conflict in Afghanistan using a consistent methodology, which has allowed for year-on-year trend
analysis and reporting. UNAMA’s protection of civilians’ work is grounded in principles of international
human rights law and international humanitarian law, and its methodology is based on best practices
and the advice and guidance of OHCHR.
UNAMA was established in 2002. It did not systematically document civilian casualties until 2009. Most
commentators observe that the impact of the armed conflict on civilians in the period 2002 up to 2008
was not as severe as has been the case from 2009.
UNAMA only includes verified civilian casualties in its reporting. See report on methodology for details
on UNAMA’s verification process and high standard of proof.
The 2018 UN Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict is available at: