Not too long ago, I blogged about the worsening situation in Afghanistan, and the impact it’s having on children there. Now the UN Secretary-General has released a report”compiled with help from UNICEF”which shows just how badly children in Afghanistan are suffering as a result of ongoing conflict in the country.
Afghan children are being recruited as suicide bombers, drawn into the military and used for sex by armed groups. They are also frequently caught up in suicide attacks or targeted directly with violence.
|© UNICEF/AFGA000871/Asad Zaidi|
|A girl watches from the window of her tent classroom at Khawaja Rowash Middle School in Kabul, Afghanistan.|
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Frafjord Johnson, who visited Afghanistan recently, said, after the fall of the Taliban, people were under the assumption that Afghanistan was venturing into the post-conflict phase and that some of the aspects that were hitting children hardest would go down. But I think there is a reality check that has kicked in amongst all players that this is not that case.”
There have been some particularly awful stories of attacks against children in Afghanistan recently. The worst, for me, was learning that at least 15 schoolgirls and female teachers had been sprayed with acid, presumably to prevent them from attending school. On November 12, two men on a motorcycle threw the acid on the girls near the Mirwais Nika Girls High School in Kandahar and then fled. Most of the girls suffered severe burns from the acid, and at least one of them will need plastic surgery to reconstruct her face and neck. Ten men”members of the Taliban”were later arrested for involvement in the attack.
|© UNICEF/AFGA001221/Katarina Premfors|
|A crowd of schoolgirls gather for morning roll call at Maleka Jalaly High School for Girls in Herat, western Afghanistan. The school is one of the largest in the area, and has seen a steady increase in girls’ enrolment since the restarting of schooling for girls in March 2002.|
The truly despicable nature of that attack has ensured lots of press coverage on the story. But there are many other stories of school-related attacks we don’t hear much about. So far this year, there have been 256 violent school incidents, resulting in some 58 deaths and 46 injuries. And in 2007, arsonists were to blame for a total of 236 school incidents.
Given the danger, it’s truly inspiring to know that many children will not be deterred from the education they deserve. And so the good news is, student enrollment in Afghanistan has continued to rise. More than 6 million Afghan children now attend school, in comparison to 3 million in 2002.
But children in Afghanistan need our help. Now, on top of all the violence, they are facing food shortages and a fast-approaching winter that is sure to bring brutally cold and stormy weather. Recently, the Ministry of Public Health warned that around 1.6 million children under five and are at risk of dying this winter due to malnutrition. Sad news for children whose daily survival is already a struggle.