Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and its poor economy continues to pose immense challenges to its population. Among the citizens, young lives especially children struggle to live happily and to meet daily needs. The recent Corona pandemic has further added to the woes in those growing lives. In a survey, researchers outlined that approximately 3 million children across the country are vulnerable to daily survival struggle, 2 million are engaged in construction and mining activities, and over 5 million are unable to attend schools for basic education. The menace of kidnapping has further aggravated the misery. The kidnapped children face physical harassment and often sexually abused. The majority of girls bear the additional burden of early marriage.
Status of Children in under-developed Countries
A cursory look at a report published by UNICEF, reveals that over 1 billion children, out of 2.2 billion worldwide, are devoid of basic rights, continue to suffer various challenges like poverty, malnutrition, exposure to abuse, and no access to education. The report also mentions that one out of every three children lives in slums (having no access to sanitary hygiene), one in every five does not have access to clean drinking water and one in seven lives in unhealthy conditions. The figures, however, are presumed to be at a higher side in the under-developed countries.
Proper education, safe childhood and a secure environment are the fundamental needs of children, but, we see that by each passing day, children are deprived of these basic natural rights. In the developed parts of the world, children do have access to a proper growth environment, whereas in Afghanistan they play with left-over bullets. We are witnessing no action from international institutions including the UN improving lives and doing some justice to Afghan children.
In 2019, UNICEF stated that around 250 thousand children were utilized to serve as soldiers, workers, or slaves around the world where wars were ongoing. It also appealed to the world to come forward and address the issue collectively and sincerely for a better future.
According to some other reports, the conditions of children are much worse in those countries which are in continuous war or conflict, such as, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine and Afghanistan. The pandemic has further worsened the conditions. Indeed, the consequences appear to be catastrophic.
The Current Living Conditions of Afghan Children
Afghanistan continues to suffer from acts of war started some 40 years ago. The Afghan security forces are in the continuous fight against terrorist groups including the Taliban. Due to the prolonged war and associated political instability, Afghanistan continues to lag behind in the domains of economy, science, education and socio-economic indicators in comparison with other nations. This has a devastating effect on society as a whole. Women, young populace face the brunt of war but the effect is severe in the tender minds. Though Afghanistan is a member of the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC), the commission has been unable to protect the rights of Afghan children.
The Afghan Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, in its report, has pointed out that around 3 million Afghan children were extremely vulnerable, 2 million were engaged as workers in the construction sector and five million were not able to attend the schools. Thousands of them faced acts of kidnapping and several underage girls were forcibly married. Some had to walk over 15 kilometers to reach a school, some had to work to arrange food for the family, some had seen the acts of terror at a very tender age. Upon reflection, it becomes difficult to pursue them to go back to school and to say with fairness that we are standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
Except for a few TV shows celebrating ‘International Children Rights Day’ run by Afghan government channels, no international body including the IHRC has taken any tangible measures to improve the lives of Afghan children.
Among the numerous challenges, the pandemic appears to be the most dangerous for children. The Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), in its latest figures, published that over 1200 persons have died of Corona and over 37,000 are infected in the country. The UNICEF data shows that over 7.3 million Afghan children are at a risk of facing severe starvation following the COVID-19 outbreak and its accelerated spread. In such a scenario, Afghanistan might witness human calamity including death due to starvation.
In such a difficult time, it is incumbent upon the part of the government and the international community to take appropriate actions to mitigate the sufferings of people. Ending the war, reduction in poverty levels, improving educational facilities, creating a safe and secure environment are some of the measures that are needed to ensure children’s attendance in the schools. Steps must be taken to stop the recruitment of children as workers and fighters. After all, the responsibility lies on us to make children’s future better.