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An Anatomy of an Airstrike: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

16.1.1 – Number of direct civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons, disaggregated by gender and age

Case Study

22 civilians were killed and five injured in the attack, all from the same family. Of the dead, 10 (45%) were children. All five survivors were young children, aged between one and seven. 

Of the 12 adults who were killed, the average age was 30. It was made up of two grandparents, aged 57 and 55 as well as 10 others aged between 18-45.

Of the children, the average age of those killed was 4.2. The youngest being just one-month old. Of those who survived, the average age was just 3.8. Of the 15 child casualties, eight were male, seven female. 

Overall, 10 of the 22 killed were male, 12 female. 


The use of airstrikes has been devastating for Afghanistan as a whole. In the past five years (2016-20), there have been 3,977 total casualties, 53% (2,122) killed, 47% (1,855) injured. 

Of these, 40% (1,598) of the civilian casualties were children. 785 killed and 813 injured.

In 2020, 17% of the total casualties from airstrikes were women.

16.2.1 – Number of indirect civilian deaths and injuries from explosive weapons, disaggregated by gender and age

Case Study

Attributing indirect deaths and injuries to a single occurrence of explosive violence is inherently difficult. UNIDIR defines indirect deaths and injuries as those ‘resulting from a loss of access to essential goods and services as a consequence of explosive weapons use’. Given the precise and contained nature of the strike on the farm in Kustay, it is hard to designate any specific indirect casualties to the attack. 

However, the general security situation in the village has led to significant underdevelopment in the area. As such, Kustay has seen a recent rise in measles which has likely claimed casualties. Similarly, displacement of those impacted by airstrikes and the conflict in general has made it even harder to develop decent transport and irrigation systems by those left behind. A lack of nutrition and access to medical facilities are all likely to claim lives. These factors will be discussed later in more detail. 


Indirect deaths must inherently be based on estimates, but key indicators can point us towards the causes behind them. Syria, who has experienced by far the most airstrikes in the past decade, was estimated, by 2016, to have suffered at least 70,000 indirect deaths, due to “lack of adequate health services, medicine, especially for chronic diseases, lack of food, clean water, sanitation and proper housing, especially for those displaced within conflict zones.” As shall be evidenced in this report, thousands of airstrikes in populated areas in Syria have played a huge part in this infrastructural damage.

Report continues:

Chapter 4: SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
Chapter 5: SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being
Chapter 6: SDG 4 – Quality Education
Chapter 7: Other Considerations
Conclusion and Recommendations

More in this series: An Anatomy of an Explosive Weapon Attack