The 40-year-old conflict in Afghanistan is having a devastating impact on Afghan children and parties are failing in their duty to shield them from its consequences, UNICEF said.
Preserving Hope in Afghanistan: Protecting children in the world’s most lethal conflict notes that in the first nine months of 2019, an average of nine children were killed or maimed every day. This marks an 11 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2018 and is largely due to a surge in suicide bomb attacks and ground engagements between pro- and anti-government forces.
“Even by Afghanistan’s grim standards, 2019 has been particularly deadly for children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Children, their families and communities suffer the horrific consequences of conflict each and every day. Those same children are desperate to grow up, go to school, learn skills, and build a future for themselves. We can, and must, do so much more to reinforce their extraordinary courage and resilience.”
Between 2009 and 2018, nearly 6,500 children were killed and almost 15,000 others injured, helping make Afghanistan the world’s most lethal warzone in 2018, the report says.
Besides the direct impact of violence, children’s lives are also being blighted by the combined effects of natural disasters, poverty, and under-development, according to UNICEF.
Additional facts from the report include:
“Young Afghans need to know that their career prospects extend beyond joining an armed group, or escaping the country to try their luck abroad,” said UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Aboubacar Kampo. “With the right support, they can begin to break free of the cycle of violence and underdevelopment and create a better future for themselves and Afghanistan.”
UNICEF is working with the authorities and local communities to address a range of negative social norms. Girls are at risk from honour killings, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Working through partners, UNICEF is also providing treatment to 277,000 severely malnourished children. But the programme needs to be substantially scaled up if another 300,000 children in need are to be reached.
UNICEF is increasingly using sustainable gravity-fed and solar-powered water systems to help some of the 2.8 million Afghans affected by a severe drought last year. Even so, only 64 per cent of the population have access to improved drinking water that is protected from outside contamination.
All parties to the conflict must fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, which require them to protect children, end the targeting of schools and health centres and allow access to humanitarian assistance.
Donor support is also critical. UNICEF needs $323 million to support its Afghanistan operations in 2020, of which 75 per cent is unfunded.