By UNICEF Australia
12 June 2019

More than 70 years ago, UNICEF was created to bring life-saving aid, support and protection to children in the aftermath of World War II. While UNICEF is much more than an emergency fund today, our vision to be there for children hasn't changed.

A look through the photo archives of our work in Afghanistan shows we still stand up for the rights of children, fight for their futures and create change in their communities.

Children crowd around a hand-pump in Laghman, Afghanistan in 2000.
Children crowd around a hand-pump in Laghman, Afghanistan in 2000.
©UNICEF/UNI120949/LeMoyne

In 2000, over two decades of war left roughly 23 million Afghans living in poverty. On top of this, the country faced a severe drought which added to the already difficult conditions. Drought and conflict displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating the plight of already vulnerable children and women.

A mother breastfeeds her child at a UNICEF-supported services centre in Bagrami village, Afghanistan, 1992.
A mother breastfeeds her child at a UNICEF-supported services centre in Bagrami village, Afghanistan, 1992.
© UNICEF/UNI120579/Isaac

This mum learned the importance of breastfeeding at a UNICEF-supported health centre for women in a village outside Kabul. The centre encourages mums to breastfeed as part of its health, education, and skills-training program. 

A mother's health and nutrition is important before, during, and after pregnancy and has an impact on the health and development of a child. 

A little girl waits to be attended to at a therapeutic feeding centre for displaced persons in 2000.
A little girl waits to be attended to at a therapeutic feeding centre for displaced persons in 2000.
©UNICEF/UNI120992/LeMoyne
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This little one was waiting to be attended to at a therapeutic feeding centre for displaced persons on the outskirts of Herat. Most of the families displaced in the year 2000 were from drought-affected provinces in Badghis and Ghor.

Today, UNICEF continues our lifesaving work with nutrition programs in over 120 countries. Right now, roughly 1.4 million children under the age of five require treatment for acute malnutrition each year due to ongoing conflict, unrest and prolonged drought. We are supporting these children by providing supplements such as therapeutic milk and emergency food.

A young boy wearing a UNICEF t-shirt pumps water at his community water pipe in Kabul, in 2000.
A young boy wearing a UNICEF t-shirt pumps water at his community water pipe in Kabul, in 2000.
UNICEF/UNI120972/LeMoyne

Malnutrition affects all age groups, but it is especially common among those with inadequate access to health services and clean water. 

Access to clean water is critical in preventing malnutrition in a child. That is why UNICEF was so focused on supporting the rehabilitation of local water supply systems, including this one, in Kabul.

A female health worker examines a baby at the UNICEF-supported maternal and child health clinic in a hospital in Faizaba in 2000.
A female health worker examines a baby at the UNICEF-supported maternal and child health clinic in a hospital in Faizaba in 2000.
©UNICEF/UNI120937/LeMoyne

This female health worker was examining a young child at a UNICEF-supported maternal and child health clinic in a hospital in Faizabad, the capital of the north-eastern province of Badakhshan. In 2000, the province was part of the less than 10 per cent of the country not controlled by the Taliban.

Workers load relief supplies, provided by UNICEF, into vehicles at an airport in Faizabad, in 2000.
Workers load relief supplies, provided by UNICEF, into vehicles at an airport in Faizabad, in 2000.
©UNICEF/UNI120979/LeMoyne

When a disaster hits or a crisis unfolds, UNICEF staff are immediately on the ground assessing the situation. Our supplies can reach anywhere in the world within 72 hours.

Almost two decades ago, Afghanistan's infrastructure crumbled and drought and conflict forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes. UNICEF was quick to act, bringing in supplies by UN aeroplane from neighbouring Pakistan.

A woman breastfeeds her child at the UNICEF-sponsored basic services centre for women in Bagrami village, outside Kabul, in 1992.
A woman breastfeeds her child at the UNICEF-sponsored basic services centre for women in Bagrami village, outside Kabul, in 1992.
© UNICEF/UNI120540/Isaac
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Children who are born small due to poor maternal nutrition start life at a huge disadvantage. They are more likely to become wasted or stunted in early life, to do less well at school, and are at greater risk of becoming overweight and developing diabetes and chronic heart disease in later life.

Following intensified civil conflict in 1992, UNICEF provided supplementary food, micronutrients, and medicines for children and women in Afghan refugee camps.

Two boys dressed for the cold winter attend a "drop-in" centre in Kabul in 1992.
Two boys dressed for the cold winter attend a "drop-in" centre in Kabul in 1992.
©UNICEF/UNI120542/Isaac

These two boys braved the cold in winter to "drop-in" to a UNICEF-operated centre in Kabul. One of 15, the centres offered health services, recreation, food and skills-training to disadvantaged or abandoned children.

Girls fill jerrycans with water at a hand-pump, in the Maslakh camp, near Herat in 2000.
Girls fill jerrycans with water at a hand-pump, in the Maslakh camp, near Herat in 2000.
©UNICEF/UNI120248/LeMoyne

Roughly 50,000 displaced people arrived at a refugee camp in an abandoned village near the western city of Herat, in early 2001. Working with fellow UN agencies, NGOs, and the government, UNICEF distributed clothing, blankets, and cooking utensils. 

One of the most significant contributions, however, was installing hand pumps and sanitary latrines. We know from experience in these situations that clean water, sanitation, and hygiene are critical in preventing malnutrition in children. 

A boy driving a pair of oxen ploughs a field in the village of Jabrail, 10 km from the western city of Herat in 2000.
A boy driving a pair of oxen ploughs a field in the village of Jabrail, 10 km from the western city of Herat in 2000.
©UNICEF/UNI120252/LeMoyne

As well as providing families displaced by conflict with clean and safe drinking water, UNICEF worked with local government departments to install hand pumps in drought-affected villages. 

This is one of the farms in the village of Jabrail, 10km from the western city of Herat, which received a hand pump to help families plough the fields.

A woman stands next to her child during growth monitoring session in a health centre in Afghanistan in 1995.
A woman stands next to her child during growth monitoring session in a health centre in Afghanistan in 1995.
©UNICEF/UNI121347/Unknown

This mum brought her child to a health centre in Afghanistan to have her growth monitored. 

Children who are malnourished often suffer from stunting due to poor nutrition, repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. 

Infants who are not breastfed and children who eat a poor diet often suffer from malnutrition - stunting their growth. 

Today, UNICEF is still working with mums around the world to encourage breastfeeding as part of its health, education, and skills-training program. 

Boys gather for a bread distribution in Kabul, in 1992.
Boys gather for a bread distribution in Kabul, in 1992.
©UNICEF/UNI120534/Isaac

At the time of severe conflict and drought in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, under-five mortality rates were the fourth highest in the world, with one in five children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Today, the nutritional situation of children in Afghanistan remains alarming. Among the two million children under the age of five who are suffering from acute malnutrition, 600,000 children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition - the most dangerous form of undernutrition in children.   

UNICEF is still on the ground and is the sole provider of ready-to-use therapeutic food which can save the life of a malnourished child. In 2018 alone, UNICEF reached 275,000 severely malnourished children with emergency food supplies. 

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