The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said Wednesday that at least 997 Iraqis were killed and 2,172 others were injured in March in acts of violence and terrorism across the country. In a statement released Wednesday, the U.N. agency also urged the Iraqi government to ramp up efforts to prevent civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict.
Iraqi Security Forces (including the peshmerga forces and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army) are trying to beat back the advance of the Islamic State group, which controls large parts of northern Iraq, including the city of Mosul. According to U.N. estimates, 729 civilians, including 42 civilian police, were killed in March and 1,785 civilians were injured. The Baghdad province, where 362 people were killed and 928 were injured, was the worst affected.
"I am shocked to see that Iraqis continue to bear the brunt of appalling numbers of casualties caused by successive waves of violence, which are threatening with additional suffering and misery," Ján Kubiš, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, said, in the statement. "The United Nations calls upon the Government of Iraq to do all it can to ensure that civilians’ safety and security is protected in line with fundamental human rights principles and humanitarian law," he added.
The Anbar province witnessed the death of 237 people, while 702 were injured in the region. However, the organization added that the numbers reported for the month are “absolute minimum” because it was not able to verify the casualty figures.
"UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas," the statement said, adding: "In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care."
A U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, formed in June 2014, is currently carrying out airstrikes targeting ISIS strongholds in Iraq. The coalition has been joined by several countries, including the U.K., Belgium, Canada and Australia.