On 15 August 2021, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and UNICEF pledged to stay and deliver.
After decades of unrest and natural disaster, the country remains in crisis, and it’s a child rights crisis.
This time last year, 1 million girls were in high school, women could work, the health system functioned, measles and acute watery diarrhoea were less prevalent, water systems were more reliable, and families were better able to feed themselves.
One year on, the picture is different; the very future of the country’s children is at stake. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan families have fled their homes to seek safety from conflict and instability. Ninety per cent of the population are on the brink of poverty and 13 million children need urgent help.
On the ground within 48 hours
On 22 June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan in Paktika and Khost Provinces leading to wide-scale destruction. Hundreds of children were killed, many more wounded and 58 children lost both parents in the devastation.
Nazi, Mahbubeh, and Zaid are siblings. They lost their entire family in the recent earthquake and now live with their aunt. “I don't know what will happen, and what we will do. I am very afraid.”
"We had no place to live in this heat. UNICEF office donated tents, plastic carpets, and hygiene kits. Thank you."
The earthquake hit communities in already vulnerable districts who have already been experiencing ongoing food insecurity, acute malnutrition, as well as outbreaks of measles and Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD).
UNICEF rapidly responded with life-saving health care and water, sanitation and hygiene supplies (WASH) – including hygiene kits, soap bars, and water treatment tablets.
Within a week of the earthquake, UNICEF carried out assessments and with partners was able to reach 5,500 households with cash assistance, to help families meet their needs.
Always there for the children of Afghanistan
19th August is World Humanitarian Day. This day brings attention and advocates for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.
Given the timing of this event in 2022, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight the amazing work of Sam Mort, Chief of Communication, Advocacy and Civic Engagement for UNICEF Afghanistan. Sam was recently in Australia, bringing attention to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
When asked how she looks after herself and her team, she responded, “It's not easy, I am just human, we are only human over there, I cry almost every day when I'm out in the field... But when you see the strength and determination of the children, it keeps me going.”
We’ll stop at nothing to reach these children
Sam Mort, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Afghanistan, and the UNICEF team has remained on the ground in Kabul and has seen first-hand the needs of children and families in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Situation Update - 1 Year On with Sam Mort
One child, Ehsan, 16 months old, was treated for severe acute malnutrition at the health care centre in Kandahar City.
Ehsan’s mother told us that, “RUTF (ready-to-use-therapeutic-food) has given light back to her children’s lives.” She told Sam, “All my children had severe acute malnutrition, but all have grown strong again after courses of RUTF.”
Feriba brought her son Danyal, then 8-months-old, into hospital due to complications from severe acute malnutrition.
“We cannot afford to buy nutritious food; we’re eating bread, rice and potatoes,” says Feriba, mother to Danyal.
Danyal is one of the luckier ones. There are more than 1 million children under five who are in urgent need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
"We’re experiencing the worst drought for decades, there’s a chronic malnutrition crisis – 1 million at risk of severe acute malnutrition, which means they’re going to die unless they get urgent therapeutic treatment."
Thanks to our partners, there are now more than 170 UNICEF-funded mobile health and nutrition teams across the country. These teams stop at nothing – not mountains, not rivers – to provide life-saving support and hope for every child.
During a visit to a village, which has been without any health services for many years, Sam spoke to mothers who lined up from the early hours to be seen by the team.
“I spoke to mothers who told me, time and time again, how relieved they were with this new service,” says Sam.
Since January, more than 246,000 children have received life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition following the screening of more than 6.5 million children.
What does a nutrition centre look like in Afghanistan?
Getting back to school
When schools closed in August 2021, the future for teachers was uncertain. For months they went without salaries and teachers, like Tahira, had to beg her neighbours for food.
Thanks to support from our donors, UNICEF was able to fund Tahira’s salary until her salary was restored, enabling her to continue supporting her family and educating the children in her community.
"I felt so relieved. I went immediately to the bazaar to buy food and supplies for my family. "
Although there are delays for girls in returning to secondary schools, UNICEF continues to advocate for the full reopening of secondary schools for girls immediately. These restrictions affect 1.1 million adolescent girls, as well as the future generations of girls.
In the meantime, children and adolescents are being provided educational opportunities through almost 10,000 community-based education classes with the assistance of UNICEF and partners.
It’s vital that support is given equitably to all children. A child is a child, no matter who he is, no matter where she is from.
We can’t forget the children of Afghanistan
With so many urgent crises around the world including the situation in Ukraine and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we must not forget the needs of the millions of children who are living a reality not of their making. Too many of Afghanistan’s children have witnessed scenes that no child should ever see. Many children are in desperate need of mental health support.
UNICEF is committed to continuing its work for children across Afghanistan, including the hardest to reach and most vulnerable.
For more 70 years in Afghanistan, our teams have nurtured community networks and built trust with everyone we need to be able to get the job done.
Our teams continue to work across every region of the country to assist the increasing number of children needing humanitarian assistance.
Help Children in Afghanistan
UNICEF will remain on the ground in Afghanistan supporting vulnerable children and their families. We can't do this without you.
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