The Most Dangerous Place to be Born

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  Afghanistan is the worst place to be a child.
-UNICEF

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As politicians, pundits, and diplomats endlessly debate the future of the world’s involvement in Afghanistan, it seems wise to reflect on the  innocents of Afghanistan over the decades of invasions, insurgencies, civil wars, and abject poverty. 

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 “Afghanistan today is without doubt the most dangerous place on earth to be born.”
– Daniel Toole, UNICEF, Regional Director for South Asia

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 The burden of wars, poverty, instability, and insurgencies has always been borne disproportionately by children.  They are killed and maimed by landmines and other explosives.   Schools are being destroyed by the Taliban, and girls who seek an education are often threatened and attacked.   Children are recruited by the Taliban to be suicide bombers and smugglers.

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 No one growing up in Afghanistan has ever known what it is like to live in a country at peace.

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These pictures are hard to look at, but much harder for the parents
to look at their children who are severely injured physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

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 A UNICEF-supported study found that the majority of children under 16 years in Kabul suffer from psychological trauma. 

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During the ten years the Soviets were in Afghanistan, they killed one million Afghans.  Five million became refugees.

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UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, says that Afghanistan is the worst place in the world to be a child. One in five children do not live past the age of five.  Most of those deaths are caused by curable childhood diseases and malnutrition, compounded by the security situation, which means that parents are unable to access proper health care.

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It is estimated that at least 30% of children from five to fourteen work to help their families survive.  Many weave rugs and work at factories making bricks.

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00299_01, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002, AFGHN-12432. A water vendor poses.

“It is very difficult to put a hard and fast figure to the number of children dying from hypothermia alone on Kabul’s streets as there would undoubtedly be other reasons that would make them sick or vulnerable in the first place,” UNICEF regional communications chief Sarah Crowe wrote.

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 “Extreme poverty, having lost a parent, being trafficked or displaced, or many other reasons may have forced them on to the streets where they would be deprived of their most basic needs (decent food, health, immunization, protection) and exposed to the extreme cold of Afghan winters.”

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“There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”
– Khaled Hosseini,  The Kite Runner

65 Responses to “The Most Dangerous Place to be Born”

  1. Hardly able to look, but not actually able to look away. Thanks for getting there and showing these images to us Steve

  2. keep on taking pictures man…… The world need your eyes…..

  3. All these UNICEF and all the BIG SHOT Organizers talk, talk, & Talk.. Everyone can comment.. We even feel moved.. but What have we done to improve this situation??? NONE! if we really have done something all these years there would have been a change definitely! Empathy is what we lack.. genuine felling for the welbeing of the people as a whole family.. rather we think selfish.. everyone including me! i feel really ashamed! All these wars are just the covering up reasons to steal resources from other oil rich countries.. seriously.. what goes around comes around.. May Allah show all of us the right path and make all of us a one big united world… Ameen!

  4. Es impresionante la maldad envuelta en las guerras,

  5. Barun K Datta Says:

    It’s really heartbreaking.Those eyes are telling everything. Thank u Steve.

  6. I wish people knew that it is lot better to leave peacefully rather than stay at war and kill innocent people. It is sad to know that humanity and mankind have taken a back stage and what is left is greed, atrocity and cruelty.

  7. These pictures are so full of emotion. And this is just so horribly beautiful way to show the sufferings. I have to ask. How did you get the picture of the screaming boy in the window, because it seems like a picture taken in a moment not a picture where you have asked permission before hand, so did you ask permission or is this just “a moment” captured?

  8. wow, and these are all just children, God protect our young ones

  9. a sad state of affairs.maybe someday somewhere somehow we could make a difference

  10. sadly we,bosnians,gave them that flag long a go…and i cant imagine how hard is for u to take these photos…i saw these kind of thing with my own eyes and god i wish i was older and smarter then to start photography.

  11. Painful but true …

    My best wishes to people of Afghanistan

  12. Judi Heim Says:

    I repeat the same words that Ninjastar, stated on May 15th – they are my thoughts exactly…”This made me want to cry…
    As much as i’m grateful for the life I’ve got, it breaks my heart looking the life that these guys have… and yet, they still smile.
    Children from developed nations could learn a lot from these kids.”

  13. Impressive pictures Steve. Thanks for sharing, and is a serious warning to all those who are causing the war and there are thousands of innocent people being caught up in the middle of those conflicts.

    And it is heartbreaking that among these thousands of people are children. It’s really sad and shocking.
    Kind Regards and thanks agains.

  14. And to think of all the things that we take for granted…
    and all the silly things that we complain about !

    May Allah ease their pain and give them a normal life soon inshaAllah. Ameen.

  15. horrible!!!..if i put myself in the place of these children and for one moment think of a world in which i am born and not know what a peaceful world is like..its a horrible world to be born and live in!!!

  16. This made me want to cry…
    As much as i’m grateful for the life I’ve got, it breaks my heart looking the life that these guys have… and yet, they still smile.
    Children from developed nations could learn a lot from these kids.

  17. Heart breaking.

  18. This is heartbreaking…a chilling affirmation of the inhumanity which our ignorance, greed, and war have made humanity stoop to. Thank you for calling attention to the stolen childhoods, the stolen lives of these children.

  19. shipon Says:

    I am just speechless about this photograph’s.I have nothing to say,I just say my heartiest pain for them………………

  20. I am always speechless after viewing the tragic imagery- But I must thank your vision and work for peace.

  21. Elisa Says:

    I love your work. Amazing.

  22. America is mired down in Afghanistan supposedly to find and, hopefully, kill the people responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. But that handful of miscreants are likely long gone or deeply hidden, leaving American troops to be magnets for foreign fighters and Taliban militants, none of whom had anything to do with Sept. 11. It is time to go to Pakistan, or wherever Osama Bin Laden is hiding, get it over with and bring our brave young soldiers home before too many more families have to go through the grief of loss. We are paying much too high a price seeking retribution. We have more important domestic issues to face.

  23. These are incredibly heartbreaking images. My only hope is that they will open some eyes, prompt some to give where it can make a difference, or make others stop and think before promoting violence.

  24. These pictures just bring home how lucky we are, it is a pity that those who cause this poverty and suffering cannot see more sense and work towards a solution that avoids war.

  25. Léé Says:

    Capolavori, come tutte le altre.
    È bello guardare cosa succede nel mondo attraverso queste fotografie.

  26. Another good place that helps families in Afghanistan is Morning Star Development. It is an NGO. They have many programs. They are here:
    http://www.msdev.org

  27. Rajkumar Says:

    Extremely heart-rending. These compilation would stir the conscience of any right thinking person that justice must somehow be done to those affected. Their eyes patently craves for help.

  28. Soumyadeep Says:

    Till now i had been thinking that my life is not good…but after seeing all these images…i really dont know what to say….
    this is so painful…why do people(read human) need to be so brutal…
    these little children..they might not even know why their limbs have been taken away from them. For us who lives in the “civilised world” each morning brings a new day..a new hope….but for them each morning brings a new nightmare…
    I wish we could all help these children in some way….
    please keep showing us what we r doing to this world and what we will leave for the generations to come.

  29. Brilliant coverage. I am really admire you persistence and love for this area.

    The picture of the boy below “These pictures are hard to look at, but much harder for the parents..” text would be the best one I suppose.

    I wonder what goes through your mind when you click such emotional yet powerful images.

  30. Marietta Yandoc Says:

    Steve, poverty in the Philippines seems idyllic compared to what you have shown in these pictures. I watched the film, “Kite Runner”. It’s a consolation that the ending is redemptive. But what are the chances of those born in Afghanistan to be redeemed?

  31. tragic tragic.. i wish i could push these images out of my head now.

  32. The other side of the incredible sadness, that contemplation of and compassion for the subjects of your images, is the constructive anger which builds inside afterwards.

    I work with young unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan here in the UK and have heard their stories first hand although I have never been to Afghanistan.

    I hope these pictures energize others to do what they can to engage with any means possible to change the life experience of even one child. For all the children affected by poverty, subjugation and war the voices of sane, caring and compassionate people must grow stronger day by day.

  33. Staci Says:

    Seeing the photos really pulls at the heart stings. Is there any way to help?

  34. Hi Steve

    It is a reality you have shown here. When looking into the monitor and seeing this pictures I am feeling ashamed that there are hundreds of children born at this time and not sure they will be there till you post the next blog and over the last few decades the entire human kind has not been able to do anything apart from kiling some more people.

  35. Dinuka Says:

    Feel really sad about these innocents.

  36. Dinuka Says:

    Feel really sad aboud this innocent people.

  37. When are we going the West countries to feel inside the skin of these children? Funny how the media have demonized the Afghans when they were the victims of the “democratic” countries of this evil world…

  38. sagarhrishikesh@gmail.com Says:

    It looks horrible to even imagine , The war has eaten them alive.hope lets world leaders show little respect to this nation & try to bring peace to them.

  39. Truly thought provoking stuff.

    I was particularly touched by the boy in the wheelchair, who still manages to muster a smile despite his injuries.

  40. Steve, once again you have shown us some extraordinary images. I can’t tell you how moved I have been by seeing the results of how children suffer through these horific actions that are beyond their control. Your photographs allow their dignity and bravery to shine through and are all the more powerful for that.

  41. Emilia Says:

    Thank you for making them visible to the world.

  42. Watan Dubey Says:

    What i see here is one of the Most Horrible and Sad things to see. We consider ourselves the “So Called Human” i see No Humanity. It fills my eyes with tears and i start to hate Myself and My Kind, hate to be a Man kind if this is what we do. I can’t sleep at nights if i read your blogs and see your pictures right before i go to bed. I used to belive and still belive that “God is Everywhere” and we can find No Place with No God, Out of God’s reach, he may be everywhere but you found us the place Where He is Not for sure because HE is Not there in our Hearts. Thank u very much for devoting your life to bring the pain and tears of those to the SO CALLED Civilized People like Us. i can’t understand a single way to do my bit to make there life livable.

  43. I am so moved by these photos. Thanks Steve for sharing

  44. very powerful pics

  45. sujan chatterjee Says:

    what did I say ,is it war photography or a photojournalism I dont know But these picture make my eyes wet & begam me to feel for those unknown faces.This is a very sensitive documentation,Mr.McCurry once again create his own magic & waiting for new pictures of him.

  46. Thank you for using your art to be the voice of those who are often unheard. You inspire me in one of my dreams which is to promote education for women where it is most needed. I have hope for the women of Afghanistan of whom are some of the strongest and most beautiful people i have ever met.

  47. Keep on taking pictures. The world needs your eyesight.

  48. Keep on taking pictures man. The world need your eyes.

  49. Thank you for this post Steve. Your blog for me is a place where I can learn so much about a world I know nothing about, and it consistently makes me think about what I can do to help. I hope that more people will watch you, your work, and the photos that come of it.

  50. Margarida Says:

    We should share these pictures. Its a matter of urgency.Thanks.

  51. bronsond Says:

    All I can say is THANK YOU!!

  52. A very good reminder that the children are the ones who are paying the price for the actions of adults.

  53. Diante das fotos destas crianças fico pensando na dor tanto fisica quando psicologica que foi feita contra elas , uma atrocidade que foi cometida por adultos que um dia tambem foram crianças.
    E me pergunto, quanta maldade cabe dentro de um ser humano?

  54. Anonymous Says:

    Makes me sad to see what we humans can do to one another

  55. It must be Terrible! Good report as ever!
    http://daniplanaslabad.wordpress.com/

  56. This time, it’s really very painful to look at your pictures and read you comment, Steve.
    But I can close my computer and kiss my kids goodnight…those parents can’t.
    Thanks for taking those pics, I assume it must have been horrible to do.
    Kind regards,
    Corina

  57. Hakuei Says:

    sigh, if only people can share more sympathy to the victims in Afghanistan rather than cheering on the street to celebrate the death of one man.

    thank you for the post, inspiring as always.

  58. I hate myself for constantly complaining about stuff that REALLY wouldn’t matter to these kids. I am gonna change my attitude in their honour.
    Look at the kid with the wheel… He’s smiling. These kids know of no other way, this is their childhood. I wish we could do something about that easily.

  59. It is so true in this case that a picture is worth a thousand words.

    These children are the silent victims of war that no one seems to care about. Humanity has come too far for things like this to exist.

  60. Gaurav Says:

    no one thinks about them….

  61. Every time they start a war or commit an attack, they think it’s for the good of their people, their religion but have they ever really asked their people if this is the life they wish to lead? Has their God ever personally told them that he wants his children to live so? Those photos are tragic for the families and no one deserves that kind of life…no one.

  62. Valdemar Says:

    It is horrible to look at those pictures, but hopefully they will remind anyone thinking of starting a new war that there are always human beings on the other side

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