Kabul 'safer' for kids than London or New York, says NATO official
Children’s advocates, aid workers, and human rights campaigners challenged the statement from NATO's civilian representative Mark Sedwill, saying it was blind to ground realities.
The capital of war-torn Afghanistan is "probably safer" for children than New York City or London, says NATO’s top civilian representative in Kabul, despite Afghanistan being in the midst of a nine-year war.Skip to next paragraph
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Mark Sedwill made his original comments on a BBC children’s program airing today, responding to comments from Afghan children who said they were fearful of explosions.
“In Kabul and the other big cities, actually there are very few of those bombs. The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York, or Glasgow or many other cities. Most children can go about their lives in safety. It’s a very family-oriented society,” he said.
Children’s advocates, aid workers, and human rights campaigners challenged the statement – some connecting it to long-running concerns that the security bubble around top western officials in Kabul has blinded them to ground realities.
“I not only totally disagree with Mr. Sedwill’s assessment of child safety in Kabul, I’m amazed to see how oblivious and ignorant he is about this situation in Afghanistan,” says Ajmal Samadi, director of the Afghanistan Rights Monitor in Kabul.
“It means NATO [officials] have no idea what Afghanistan and Kabul is beyond their high compound walls. If he’s talking about NATO headquarters, yes, that’s safe,” he adds.
Poverty more deadly than war: Sedwill
Sedwill clarified his position in response to the outcry. "I was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan," he wrote in an e-mail statement.
"Half the insurgent violence takes place in 10 of the 365 districts and, in those places, children are too often the victims of IEDs and other dangers.
“But in cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many western children would experience.”
Sedwill went on to say that challenges of poverty put “many more children at risk” than the war.
Kabul kids still at risk from bombs
Children have been caught in major explosions inside Kabul, however, including a 2007 bus bombing, the 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy, and the 2009 bombing of NATO’s military mission (ISAF) headquarters. In the first half of 2010, 176 children were killed in conflict nationwide, a 55 percent jump from the same period last year.