Afghanistan

Urgent to Protect Girls & Education in Conflict Said UN Officials After Deadly Attack in Afghanistan

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The Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and on Violence Against Children, Dr Najat Maalla M’jid, condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack that took place outside a school in Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul, Afghanistan on 8 May 2021, in which, according to the latest reports, hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured. Furthermore, this attack was clearly targeted at girls and their families as it occurred at the place and hour of ingress and egress of students to school.

“Those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable. The recent escalation of violence in Afghanistan repeatedly target children and risk to further exacerbate the dire conditions of this highly vulnerable group. We urge positive and cooperative action to ensure the full protection of human rights including the protection of children from violence”, said the Special Representatives. The two UN Officials further call on authorities in Afghanistan to urgently ensure the protection of the right to education in armed conflict, especially girls ’education which is too often overlooked and neglected.

“In many contexts, access to education is particularly harsh for girls for economical and cultural reasons, but also for security reasons of which the recent attack in Afghanistan is only one last tragic example. We must ensure that schools remain protected environments and that girls just like boys are given equal opportunities to pursue their education,” they added.

Afghanistan remains one of the most affected countries by attacks on schools and hospitals as shown in the 2019 Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict; preliminary data for 2020 show a similar worrying trend, with the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbating the vulnerabilities of children, including girls.

“Girls may not be given the choice to go back to school when they reopen, because they had to work or be married off to support their families. In face of the continuous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries must make the strategic decision of prioritizing education, including in armed conflict in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of reaching the furthest behind, ” highlighted the two UN Officials.

The targeting of girls undermines the crucial role that educated girls and women have in the social and economic development in their societies and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Special Representatives underline the urgency of ending the violence in Afghanistan and achieving a peaceful settlement of the conflict. They further expressed their condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Afghanistan and wished a full recovery to those who were injured in the horrific terrorist attack.

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For additional information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, New York. Tel: +1 646 537-5066 vinet@un.org

Miguel Caldeira, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Communication Officer, +1-917-367-6132 / +1-917-402- 8971 caldeira1@un.org