Civilians must be allowed safe passage out of Lashkar Gah following three days of intense fighting between Afghan government and Taliban forces that has blocked all exit routes from the city and forced at least 35,000 people to flee their homes, said Amnesty International.
The heavy fighting, in which Afghan forces supported by US airstrikes are defending the Helmand Province capital from a Taliban assault, has taken out power across the entire city as well as telephone lines and internet access.
With nowhere to go, some of the tens of thousands displaced are reported by local media to have sought refuge in homes in neighboring areas, while hospitals have admitted hundreds of civilian casualties.
The situation for civilians in Lashkar Gah is grave and could deteriorate rapidly in the coming days. Tens of thousands of people are trapped in the middle of a bloody battle that shows no sign of abating.
To avoid this turning into a humanitarian disaster, both parties to the conflict must ensure that civilians are protected and allowed to safely leave the war zones and get out of the city.
We call on the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to ensure immediate shelter, food and other humanitarian assistance to the displaced, and call on the parties to the conflict to stop hostilities in civilian areas to prevent civilian casualties.
So far, there has been no response from the Government of Afghanistan to any support provided to civilians, especially displaced persons, which raises our concerns, and we urge the Government of Afghanistan to act as soon as possible to support the displaced.
report: Nasim Kardan