Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Glance at Critical Condition of Children

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Glance at Critical Condition of Children

After many years of war and severe poverty, combined with worsening migration crises, Afghanistan persists to be among the most dangerous places for children to be born! The longstanding conflict in Afghanistan is one of key factors which continue to expose its citizens, particularly children, to the worst living conditions and exposes them to harm. As children are one the most vulnerable social class, they have always been the primary category victim by ongoing crises. According to some reports about 40% of children suffer from malnourishment whereas over than fifty percent of the country’s population comprised of children; thus reportedly, a large number of them are subjected to violence, health and poor education. When the violence spreads, many people become displaced, while the most defenseless group of them would be children; According to expert, the running condition will worsen the atmosphere that would lead to the children to be more exposed to higher risk of abuse, exploitation and hunger.  However, according to the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD), the number of street children has decreased in the country.

As Expressed by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), there are serious concerns about the lives of between 300,000 and 500,000 Afghan children employed as laborers or work on the streets. The AIHRC stated that the issue of child labor affects hundreds of thousands of children who are deprived of a formal education. “We have suggested the Afghan government increase the social security for supporting children,” CEO of the AIHRC Musa Mahmoudi said. The Afghan government and international children rights groups have failed to address the plight of these children, the AIHRC said.

Also, the AIHRC for the southern region says that the number of children involved in manual labor has increased, with at least 20,000 working in Kandahar. Ongoing fighting in Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces is said to be one of the main reasons behind the increase of the number of children employed as laborers. “Nearly 20,000 children are doing (manual) labor in the province, quoted from Fakhruddin Faiez, deputy head of AIHRC in Kandahar. Meanwhile, Kandahar local government says that they have started a range of programs to help poor families economically and that they should not send their children out to work. “We have provided some facilities; if the families are helped, then their children won’t have to work,” quoted from Kandahar governor’s spokesman, Samim Khpolwak.

Reportedly, the continued intensifying and geographic spread of the conflict has prompted a 13% increase in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2017, now 9.3 million. Unrelenting displacement and exposure to repetitive shocks continues to intensify humanitarian needs. Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous, and most violent, crisis ridden countries in the world. Households in Afghanistan face constant danger of conflict and natural disasters, often compelling them to flee their homes at a moment’s notice. In 2016, all regions of the country have been touched by the conflict. Violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Human Rights Law (HRL) occur regularly - including target killings, forced recruitment and attacks on health and education facilities.

The 8,397 civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2016 are the highest recorded since 2009, and included a 15% increase in child casualties compared to 2015. In 2016 increasingly frequent ground engagements continued to be the main cause of civilian casualties, while also limiting freedom of movement for civilians and contaminating areas with explosive remnants of war (ERW) which disproportionally affect children. Health partners reported 57,346 weapon wounded cases between January and September alone, compared to 19,749 in 2011, representing almost a three-fold increase.
Therefore, the country is facing increasing numbers of people on the move. In 2016 the conflict has led to unprecedented levels of displacement, reaching half a million in November - the highest number recorded to date. On average, every day sees another 1,500 people forced to leave their homes, escaping violence. Over half a million displaced families are scattered across 34 different provinces – with approximately 20% extremely hard to reach in gradually expanding areas of nongovernment controlled territory. 56% of the displaced are children and face particular risk of abuse, and exploitation, as well as interrupted school attendance and harmful child labor. Multiple forms of gender based violence (GBV), particularly early and forced marriage, domestic, psychological, and sexual abuse are reported, affecting individuals in hosting and displaced communities alike.

On the other hand, 2016 saw the unprecedented return of some 6/ 700,000 registered refugees and undocumented Afghans from Pakistan. For the majority, return is reluctant, and the experience often abrupt and distressing. Once here, they add to the ranks of internally displaced, as conflict and lost community networks prevent them returning to any ostensive place of origin. With no obvious prospects for an improved state of affairs, 2017 is likely to see at least 450,000 new IDPs and potentially as many as a million more Afghan returns from Pakistan and Iran.

By and large, the long-lasting conflict continues to threaten the physical safety and health of Afghans, disproportionately so for women and children. Attacks against health facilities, patients, medical staff and vehicles, continue to disrupt and deprive people of life-saving treatment. Four and a half million people live in conflict affected districts with extremely constrained access to health services. Maternal and child health remains dangerously overlooked. Rates of infant and maternal mortality remain among the highest in the world and severe acute malnutrition (SAM) has breached emergency thresholds in 20 of 34 provinces. Some 1.8 million people require treatment for acute malnutrition.

Simultaneous exposure to violence as well as high economic vulnerability means most households experience multiple and repetitive shocks within a year resulting in food insufficiency and adoption of negative, often harmful coping strategies which plunge families deeper into crisis.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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