Concern over mounting child casualties and grave violations in Kunduz voiced by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, today expressed serious concern over grave violations against children during ongoing hostilities in Kunduz, in north-eastern Afghanistan.

Since the launch of the Taliban offensive on Kunduz on 28 September 2015, at least 10 children have been killed and 53 injured.* “Children are paying an unacceptable price in the escalating conflict in Afghanistan,” stated the Special Representative, noting that the number of child casualties in the first half of 2015 was the highest recorded since the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism was established in 2009. The Special Representative reiterated that all parties to conflict must abide by their international legal obligations to distinguish between civilian and military objects, and take precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties.

SRSG Zerrougui expressed alarm at reports of the use of children – some allegedly as young as 10 years old – by the Taliban in fighting in and around Kunduz. An unconfirmed number of these children were reportedly killed during combat. The Special Representative stated, “The use of child soldiers – particularly in frontline operations – is unacceptable and I call on parties to immediately cease the recruitment and use of children.”

“I also strongly condemn the tragic attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières trauma hospital in Kunduz, which caused the deaths and injuries of medical personnel and patients, including the killing of three children.” She recalled the protections afforded to hospitals and medical personnel under international humanitarian law, and called for an independent, impartial and effective investigation into the incident. She expressed deep concern that, as a result of this attack, this facility is no longer operational and most medical staff have also fled the Kunduz regional hospital, leaving thousands of children and other civilians with limited access to medical assistance.

Further, the Special Representative deplored that, as a result of the hostilities, all 497 schools in Kunduz province have been closed, impeding access to education for over 330,000 children. She called on all parties to protect education and respect children’s right to education.

Children account for the majority among an estimated 10,000 families displaced by the hostilities. The Special Representative shared her concern with regards to the difficulties of humanitarian access as a result of insecurity, and called on all parties to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of children and their families.

“In Kunduz, and also throughout Afghanistan, I call upon all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international law to protect children and other civilians from harm, to cease the recruitment and use of children, and to ensure the protection of hospitals, schools and other vital civilian infrastructure.”

* Figures are based on reports received by the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, which documents information on the six grave violations against children in armed conflict. The actual number of children killed or maimed is likely to be higher, as the fluid security situation has limited the access of monitors.

For further information, please contact:

Steven Edwards
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-2383
Email: edwards@un.org