One year on, Afghanistan, already strained by decades of insecurity and natural disasters, and now distanced from the global community, has further deteriorated. The recent earthquakes and floods were just the latest example of horror, hardship and heartbreak.
So, as I reflect on the last year, and the challenges that Afghans, especially children and mothers, have endured, my message is that we salute your courage and resilience. We see you; we hear you; and we’re staying here with you.
Because this is a pivotal juncture for a generation of children in Afghanistan. Their childhoods are marred by deprivation; their rights are increasingly unmet. 13 million children need urgent support.
This time last year, 1 million girls were in high school, women were working, the health system was functioning, diseases such as measles and acute watery diarrhoea were less prevalent, water systems were more reliable, food was more affordable, girls were better protected from early marriage and families were better able to feed themselves.
One year on, the picture is different. Children’s futures are at stake. But UNICEF is here; we’ve stood by the people of Afghanistan for more than 70 years and we’re remaining by their side. We value the trust communities place in us, and we’ll continue to earn that trust by expanding into areas that were previously inaccessible so that we can reach ever more children and mothers with clean water and healthcare, with malnutrition treatments and cash assistance, and with psychosocial counselling and learning opportunities for every child.
It’s a tough job. But we derive our strength from children like Muska.
I met Muska in Paktia province in May; she’s 12. A bright and articulate grade 6 student, she’s looking at a bleak future, unsure if she and her friends will have a class to go to next year following the de facto authorities’ decision, in March, not to let girls return to high school.
When I asked if she had a message for other grade 6 girls, she said, “As I hope, please have hope. As I study, please keep studying. And let’s all pray that there will be a class for us beyond grade 6.”
That any child should be praying for an education in 2022 is something that should weigh heavily on us all. It certainly weighs heavily on the UNICEF Afghanistan team.
To Muska, I say, I see you; I hear you; and I and my team, are staying here for you – and the million girls deprived of their right to an education.
UNICEF will not give up on education for children, especially girls. They have a right to education. UNICEF wants to see every girl and boy across Afghanistan in school and learning. We will continue to advocate to get all children back in school for as long as it takes because we see that demand for education nationwide is at an all-time high -- from girls, fathers, mothers, village elders and religious leaders.
So, we’ll continue to scale up and deliver like never before across all our programme areas. For example, we’re making sure that basic social services are available by supporting 24,000 health workers and 2,300 health facilities. We’re preventing the spread of malnutrition by treating 300,000 children with severe acute malnutrition and doubling the number of nutrition counsellors. We’re preventing children from getting sick by trucking water to areas affected by the drought or natural disaster, and repairing water and sanitation systems. We’re supporting 1 million vulnerable people with cash transfers, and we’re help children affected by trauma, such as the recent earthquake, to recover with child-friendly spaces and psychosocial counsellors. And we’re responding to the demand for education by printing 38 million textbooks, training 1,200 teachers, and expanding our community-based education classes to 17,000 by year’s end enabling 500,000 children to learn.
And so much more.
But we couldn’t do any of this without the trust and support of the people of Afghanistan.
Thank you for the faith you place in all of us at UNICEF.
Chief of Communication
Tel: +93 799 98 7110
Tel: +93 799 95 7110