Afghanistan is the worst place to be a child.
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.
“Afghanistan today is without doubt the most dangerous place on earth to be born.”
– Daniel Toole, UNICEF, Regional Director for South Asia
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.
No one growing up in Afghanistan has ever known what it is like to live in a country at peace.
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.
A UNICEF-supported study found that the majority of children under 16 years in Kabul suffer from psychological trauma.
During the ten years the Soviets were in Afghanistan, they killed one million Afghans. Five million became refugees.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
“There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”
– Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner