World 'failing' to protect civilians caught in conflicts, UN chief says

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© Ed Jones, AFP

The world is failing to protect civilians as the number of people caught up in conflicts and their humanitarian aftershocks skyrocketed last year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday.

In 2022, the United Nations tallied a 53 percent increase in civilian deaths compared to the year prior, with nearly 17,000 civilian deaths recorded across 12 conflicts.

Citing civilian deaths in Ukraine and Sudan, schools destroyed in Ethiopia and damage to water infrastructure in Syria, Guterres warned the UN Security Council that "the world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians; commitments enshrined in international humanitarian law."

Guterres, sitting next to Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, said UN research into the treatment of civilians of war zones showed 94 percent of victims of "explosive weapons" in populated areas were civilians last year, while more than 117 million people faced acute hunger primarily because of war and insecurity.

In Ukraine alone, which has been battling Russia's invasion for over year, the UN recorded nearly 8,000 civilian deaths and over 12,500 injuries, though it added that the actual figures are likely higher.

Worldwide, the number of refugees forced from their homes "due to conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution" has reached 100 million, the UN chief added.

The rise in civilians killed in armed conflicts last year is "very troubling," he added.


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