According to a new UN report, the number of Afghan civilians injured or killed in 2012 decreased for first time since the UN started tracking these figures six years ago.
But not all the news in the report is good. It states that targeted killings, especially of women and girls, are on the rise, and that there was a 20 per cent increase in the number of Afghan women and girls killed or injured last year.
One example of the increase in targeted killing of women is the murder of two female heads of the Lagham Department of Women's Affairs in Afghanistan's eastern Lagham Province.
In July 2012 Hanifa Safi, then head of the Department, was killed by a bomb attached to her car. Then in December, the new head of the same organization, Nadia Sidiqi, was murdered by gunmen.
Overall, the report describes a three-fold increase in the targeted killings of women in Afghanistan, and a 20 per cent increase in the total number of female casualties.
Among the 7,559 civilian casualties - 2,754 deaths and 4,805 injuries - that were confirmed by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 301 women and girls were killed and 563 were injured.
Many of those female casualties were hurt or killed while on their way to school or work.
"It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities," said the Director of Human Rights for UNAMA, Georgette Gagnon.
Although this study offers some insight into the gender of those hurt or killed in the Afghan conflict, it's hard to find accurate figures on how many women and girls end up as casualties of conflicts around the world.
According to the UN, up to 70 per cent of women around the world experience violence in some form in their lifetime.
But data on how many women are hurt and killed during armed conflicts is harder to come by. In fact, a 2009 study prepared for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs found that there just isn't a lot of data about how many of those killed in conflicts worldwide are women.
"Our first finding was that there are practically no global data available that allowed us to investigate conflict mortality disaggregated by gender," the report's authors wrote.
They found that while there is some gender-specific data available for specific conflict zones, like Afghanistan, "very little information is available on a global scale."
One finding of the paper, based on the evidence the authors did gather, is that men are more likely to die during times of violent conflict, while women die more often of indirect causes after the conflict is over. But the authors point out that without more empirical evidence, it's hard to be sure about what accounts for that difference.
The paper's conclusion is that the lack of information about gender and mortality makes it harder for policymakers to effectively plan humanitarian and military assistance in conflict zones.
Via UN Dispatch