Afghanistan: 18,000 – 20,000 Civilians Killed

The war in Afghanistan continues taking and destroying lives, both due to the direct consequences of violence and the war-induced breakdown of public health, security, and infrastructure. In 2004, life expectancy was measured at a mere 42 years; moreover, 25 percent of children did not reach the age of 5. The first half of 2011 saw the most intense fighting since the early part of the war and more lives have been lost as a result of war than when the Taliban was in control.

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Civilians have been killed by crossfire, improvised explosive devices, assassination, bombing, and night raids into houses of suspected insurgents.  Unexploded ordnance from previous wars and from US cluster bombs continue to kill even in the absence of fighting. 

Hospitals in Afghanistan are also treating increasing numbers of war wounded, including amputees and burn patients.  The war has also inflicted invisible wounds.  In 2009, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health said fully two-thirds of Afghans suffer mental health problems.

Afghanistan was poor and vulnerable before the war that began in 2001; its population remains poor and vulnerable. The general immiseration of the Afghan population is in part due to and exacerbated by past conflict.  The prior wars and civil conflict in the country have made Afghan society extremely vulnerable to the indirect effects of the current war.  

The war related indirect deaths in Afghanistan are caused by many factors, including disease due to lack of clean drinking water, malnutrition, and reduced access to health care.  Environmental disasters, such as drought and floods, make living in war zones more difficult, and create what the humanitarian relief community calls "complex emergencies."  

Nearly every factor that is associated with premature death — poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, environmental degradation — is exacerbated by the current war.  While Afghanistan has benefited from investments in health care that may ameliorate some of the effects of war, claims of significant strides in health and healthcare have been called into question. (Text updated as of March 2014)


[1] Lawrence, Quil (2012). Gains In Afghan Health: Too Good To Be True? : NPR. NPR.org. http://www.npr.org/2012/01/17/145338803/gains-in-afghan-health-too-good-..., accessed March 10, 2013.

[2] Ibid.