KABUL - Child casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan rose by more than a quarter last year, the UN said Wednesday, with an average of nearly five youngsters killed or injured every day in 2011.
A UN report on children in armed conflict said a total of 1,756 children were killed or injured in the war in Afghanistan in 2011, an average of 4.8 a day, compared with 1,396 in 2010.
The UN children's agency UNICEF said more than 300 under-18s were reportedly recruited to fight in Afghanistan, where Taliban militants are waging an increasingly bloody insurgency against the government and its Western backers.
"The death or maiming of a single child is a tragedy. This level of avoidable suffering of children, as is presented in the Secretary General's report, is simply unacceptable," said UNICEF Afghanistan Deputy Representative, Vidhya Ganesh.
"It is imperative that all parties to the conflict do everything they can, right away, to protect the lives and the basic rights of the children of Afghanistan."
In February the Afghan government said police had rescued 41 children, some as young as six, from being smuggled into Pakistan to be trained as suicide bombers.
Earlier that month, the authorities announced the arrest of two 10-year-old would-be suicide bombers allegedly planning to attack Afghan and international forces in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace.
Tens of thousands of children in Afghanistan, driven by poverty, work on the streets of the war-torn country's cities and often fall prey to Taliban bombings and other violence, as well as abuse.