By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
With nearly 10 million children in urgent need of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan amid the increased conflict and insecurity in recent weeks, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern that those least responsible for the crisis are paying the highest price – including children – some of them killed in a deadly attack at the Kabul airport on Thursday.
A huge explosion rocked Kabul’s airport last week as the US and other international troops carried out massive evacuation efforts following the Taliban takeover of the country. Over 150 people were killed in the incident, including 13 US servicemen, and several others were left injured.
UNICEF further highlights the need for humanitarian aid for the country, amid headlines about international donors cutting aid to the country. The humanitarian aid appeal will go to cover a variety of sectors including child protection, sanitation, nutrition, health and education, says Herve Ludovic De Lys, UNICEF’s Afghanistan representative.
Children affected in the crisis
Against the back of instability and conflict, Herve de Lys notes that there is a “child protection crisis in the country that is already one of the worst places on earth to be a child.”
He spoke of unsettling reports of unaccompanied children across the country, many exposed to grave violations, including some being recruited by armed groups.
Some other children who live in communities are running out of water because of droughts. Many are extremely malnourished and risk starvation. In addition, they are missing life-saving vaccines, including against polio, a disease that can paralyze them for life.
All of this, De Lys noted, is happening in a year “in which more than 550 children have been killed, and more than 1,400 injured.”
Aid for Afghanistan
UNICEF urges aid to support its work in the trouble-ridden country, in order to help the children “deprived of their right to a healthy and protected childhood,” de Lys said adding that “it is for each and every one of these children that UNICEF is staying” in Afghanistan.
Herve de Lys underlined the importance of cash-based assistance for Afghans in need, noting that cash “gives people the power to choose what they need the most while maintaining their dignity”, especially as the winter months approach.
He also reiterated the commitment to girls’ education, insisting that UNICEF will advocate “for all girls in Afghanistan, including those with disabilities, to attend primary and secondary school, and go to university if they choose.”
Calling on all partners, he appealed that they support UNICEF as it prioritizes its scale-up plan which includes providing mobile health clinics; vaccinating babies against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases, and vaccinating people against COVID-19; treating children who are severely acutely malnourished; delivering water to areas affected by the drought, and distributing hygiene kits; getting children ready for school for the new school term next month, which includes efforts to reach 300,000 children, half of whom are girls.