In the month of May, five children were reportedly killed while playing with an unexpected mortar near their home in the Laghman province of Afghanistan. The country is no stranger to circumstantial deaths since violence has been increasing significantly.
In Afghanistan, the first four months of 2017 has been marked by conflict-related child deaths. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has reported that there have been 987 child causalities, including 283 deaths and 704 injuries. This is a sharp increase of 21% compared to the same period in 2016.
The conflict has had profound consequences for the children. For example, many children who survived reported being scared and suffered both mentally and psychologically. Also, many children are being prevented from getting an education since they are forced into child labour or marriage. As well, as a result of the violence, the incidence of underage marriage and child labour has increased due to rising poverty and internal displacement.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces have been increasingly co-opting schools for military purposes in recent months. The NGO states how their actions have prevented children, particularly girls, from attending school. The net attendance rates for Afghan children in primary education is low as 57%. The rate for girls is 48%, whereas for boys it is at 64%. Due to increasing violence, the situation is likely to be even worse.
Many children are being taken out of school to work due to the consequences of poverty and violence. It is estimated that over 25% of Afghan children aged between 5-14 are labourers. Although it is illegal to employ children younger than 14, instead children are working as shoe-shiners, bonded labourers in brick kilns, and weavers among other occupations. The conditions they are exposed to are often extremely hazardous.
The prospects for young Afghan girls remain bleak living in an environment characterized by conflict and economic hardship. Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women. Girls are still regularly sold for marriage. According to the UN, marriages are used for financial gain to strengthen family ties and settle debts and disputes. In Afghanistan, nearly 10% of girls aged between 15-19 give birth every year. Pregnancies in immature girls can be damaging to both the physical and mental health of the girl-mother and her baby, which can result further in isolation and unemployment.
In Afghanistan, poverty is one significant factor that contributes to the human rights abuse of children. The other significant factor is the lack of awareness about human rights. According to experts, a regulatory system needs to be developed that promotes human rights and saves children from these harmful conditions. The implementation of such a system can help educate others of their own human rights. However, it is said that the Afghan government does not have sufficient funds for this.
The UN and other international organizations are calling on the Afghan government to promote the rights of women and children. This has resulted in initiatives such as the National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage (NAPEECM). In the first week of June, UNAMA hosted an televised debate by a children social activism group to promote youth civil participation in the country’s southeast.Yet, theses initiatives are often criticized by observers. One example, is how NAPEECM has been called an “empty promise” by HRW. Unfortunately, young Afghan children still remain at the mercy of violence and poverty.
The international community must take sufficient steps to help Afghanistan. Each step, should focus on reviving the fundamental human rights within the country. By providing the necessary tools and resources, the country will flourish in its mission to reduce sectarian violence within their population. With that said, by providing institutional support, Afghanistan is one step closer to educating and supporting their children and, ultimately, their future.