At least 27 children have been killed and 136 injured over the past 72 hours as violence escalated in Afghanistan, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said on Monday.
The UN agency said it is "shocked by the rapid escalation of grave violations against children" in Afghanistan.
"In the last 72 hours, 20 children have been killed and 130 children have been injured in Kandahar province; Two children were killed and three were injured in Khost province; and in Paktia province, five children were killed and three were injured," UNICEF said.
"The atrocities grow higher by the day," it added.
"These are not numbers. Each one of these deaths and each case of physical suffering is a personal tragedy. These children are much loved and longed-for daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends. All of them are children whose right to protection, under international humanitarian law, has been disregarded by warring parties," UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Herve Ludovic De Lys said in a statement.
The statement said that these atrocities are also evidence of the brutal nature and scale of violence in Afghanistan which preys on already vulnerable children.
Recently, the Taliban have increased their attacks against civilians and Afghan defence forces and captured several key districts in Afghanistan.
Expressing concern about reports that children are, increasingly, being recruited into the conflict by armed groups, UNICEF said that many other boys and girls are deeply traumatized as they witness atrocities committed against their families and others in their communities.
"Children should not pay for this worsening conflict with their childhoods. Only a complete end of hostilities can protect Afghanistan's children. As long as the conflict rages, children's right to thrive is compromised; their futures jeopardized, and their contributions to their nation's prospects diminished," the statement said.
"All children, including children with disabilities, need protection and peace now. UNICEF calls on all those engaged in mediation efforts to uphold the warring parties to their international obligations to children, it added.
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