In March 2017, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (‘Watchlist’) launched its first in a series of Field Monitor reports focused on the impact on children of attacks on medical facilities and personnel and denial of humanitarian access. “Every Clinic Is Now on the Frontline” The Impact on Children of Attacks on Health Care in Afghanistan highlights how the targeting of medical facilities and personnel throughout Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016 had devastating consequences on children’s health. Watchlist is preparing to release an update to the report detailing attacks carried out in 2017.
Based on a review of public and confidential information, Watchlist found that parties to the conflict, including the Taliban, the Islamic State (IS), and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) carried out at least 63 attacks on medical facilities and personnel between January and December 2017. The number and type of incidents is consistent with Watchlist’s documentation of incidents carried out in 2015 and 2016.
Children continue to bear the brunt of the effects of these attacks—their health care needs for preventable diseases and malnutrition continues to rise, while their access to health care has contracted, in part due to the attacks. In light of the continued targeting of medical facilities and personnel as a tactic of war, Watchlist calls on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease attacks, and strongly urges the Government of Afghanistan to take concrete measures to remedy impunity for violations, including investigating, prosecuting, and condemning those responsible in a timely and impartial manner.
Watchlist also highly recommends that in the upcoming mandate renewal of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), distinct budget lines be retained for child protection in order to provide for a dedicated, standalone Child Protection Section with a sufficient number of Child Protection Advisors (CPAs). CPAs are essential to gathering and verifying information on attacks on medical facilities and personnel and other grave violations against children for Afghanistan’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM). Doing so not only provides dedicated child protection capacity, but also support for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2286 (2016), which calls for better protection for medical and humanitarian facilities and personnel and accountability for perpetrators.
The MRM, in Afghanistan and the other 13 countries where it is active, is one of the only existing mechanisms that regularly carries out these activities by providing verified information on attacks on medical facilities and personnel (and the other grave violations against children) for publication in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. This report names and shames perpetrators and serves as the basis for requiring listed parties to enter into time-bound action plans with the UN to end and prevent violations in order to be de-listed in subsequent reports. In gathering and verifying information on attacks on medical facilities and personnel and other grave violations against children in Afghanistan and elsewhere, CPAs are crucial to the UN Security Council’s Children and Armed Conflict agenda, implementation of SCR 2286, and by extension the Protection of Civilians agenda.