More than 50 million people are currently impacted by fighting inside towns and cities as he urge member states to do more to protect civilian lives, the UN Secretary-General said on Tuesday.
UN Chief António Guterres said, the use of explosive weapons in urban areas, particularly those with wide-area effects, carries a high risk of indiscriminate impact and civilians can suffer devastating harm both in the immediate aftermath, and in the long-term.
He added that around 90% of those killed and injured, play no part in instigating the violence.
“Civilians can suffer devastating harm both in the immediate aftermath, and in the long-term,” he said.
According to Mr. Guterres, many victims face lifelong disabilities and grave psychological trauma. Water, electricity and sanitation infrastructure are often damaged, and healthcare services are severely disrupted.
The Secretary-General pointed to scores of schools and healthcare facilities damaged during fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza last year, he said that nearly 800,000 people were left without access to piped water.
In Afghanistan, an explosive attack outside a Kabul high school last May, killed 90 students, mainly girls, and left another 240 people injured.
“Beyond the immediate pain and suffering, the indirect effects of damage to schools range from disruption to education, to increased likelihood of early marriage and recruitment into armed groups,” Mr. Guterres said.
A 2020 study conducted in Yemen showed that the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas disrupted every resource and system in the country.
“From Afghanistan to Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond, the risk of harm to civilians, rises when combatants move among them and put military facilities and equipment near civilian infrastructure,” the UN chief said.
The consequences of this type of conflict go far beyond its more immediate impact, putting people at risk of sieges and blockades, which have had a horrific impact on civilians in growing urban areas, up to and including starvation.
“Urban warfare forces millions of people from their homes, contributing to record numbers of refugees and internally displaced people,” Mr. Guterres explained.
Four years after the destruction of 80% of housing in Mosul, Iraq, for example, an estimated 300,000 people are still displaced.
Warfare in cities also creates millions of tons of debris that poses risks to both the environment and to people’s health. And unexploded ordnance makes it too dangerous for people to return home.
On top of that, mass destruction of buildings sets development back by decades, undermining progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. Guterres told Council Members that “the frightening human cost of waging war in cities is not inevitable; it is a choice.” (Source: UN News)