The United Nations said in a report Wednesday that an increasing number of women and children were getting hurt or killed in Afghanistan's war against the Taliban and other anti-government fighters.
The number of casualties among women rose by 23 percent and the number of casualties among children rose by 13 percent in the first six months of 2015 as compared to the same time period last year, the report said.
Dominic Medley, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera that the significant increase in casualties among women and children could be blamed on a combination of factors, including more ground fighting — the leading cause of civilian casualties — and a rise in the use of indiscriminate weapons.
Ninety percent of all civilians casualties resulted from ground engagements, improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks and targeted killings, the report said.
UNAMA attributed 70 percent of the 4,921 civilian casualties to insurgent forces, including 1,592 deaths. Meanwhile, the total number of casualties in the almost 14-year conflict was up one percent in the first half of this year, compared to the same January to June period last year, the U.N. report said.
Among those killed was 14-year-old son of Khakishah Ghafouri. The teen was killed by the blast wave of a suicide bomb attack targeting a military convoy of foreign soldiers on the main road to Kabul airport.
“He was a good, smart and brave boy. He told me all the time he wanted to be a lawyer,” Ghafouri told Al Jazeera. “When these suicide attacks happen, the poor people suffer, because in every suicide attack, many people die, many are injured — it’s all civilians.”
UNAMA chief Nicholas Haysom said, “the cold statistics of civilian casualties do not adequately capture the horror of violence in Afghanistan, the torn bodies of children, mothers and daughters, sons and fathers.”
Afghanistan's security forces have been fighting the Taliban alone since the withdrawal of U.S. and international combat troops last year. The Taliban have sought to take advantage by escalating their attacks, spreading their footprint from the south and east to the north, and joining forces with other insurgent groups.
Afghan officials have said other armed groups, as well as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — which controls about one-third of Syria and Iraq and has a small but growing presence in Afghanistan — have joined the anti-government war.
In a worrying trend, more civilians were injured or killed by government forces than the Taliban during armed clashes, the U.N. said, although the insurgents remained responsible for the majority of civilian casualties overall. Explosive devices like mortars, rockets and grenades used during clashes caused most of the injuries and deaths during ground engagements, the U.N. said.
Heather Barr, a senior researcher on Afghanistan with the New York-based Human Rights Watch, echoed UNAMA's call for all parties in the Afghanistan conflict to avoid harming civilians.
The Afghan government “has to take responsibility for civilian casualties — it has to educate its forces about what international law is on the protection of civilians, and if there are deaths caused by government forces, they must be investigated,” Barr said.
With no NATO troops on the battlefields following the withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of last year, she expressed concerns those numbers could rise further.
“There seems to be no willingness by the government to take seriously these problems,” Barr said. “As there are fewer and fewer international forces to watch and constrain what the Afghan security forces are doing, there is less constraint than before, and no reason to believe things will improve with the continuing drawdown.”
Al Jazeera and wire services. Jennifer Glasse contributed to this report from Kabul.