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.
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No reliable data on crimes affecting children exists in Afghanistan. But there are some vulnerability indicators.
Kabul has some 60,000 to 70,000 street and working children, according to Mohammad Yousef, director of the NGO Aschiana. “Early in the morning they go to the street, and at night they go back to family – that is not safe and secure,” says Mr. Yousef.
Some of these children suffer beatings at the hand of shopkeepers or police, adds Yousef; other times they are recruited as drug mules, fighters, or sex workers. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) data from 2005 found that nearly a quarter of all 13- to 14-year-old boys in Kabul are street children.
“These children do not have access to education. I think in the US and London there are opportunities for all children for education,” says Yousef. “If a child does not have access to education, he will not be safe and secure when he becomes an adult.”
Neither is school always a safe place. Scores of female students have wound up in the hospital following suspected poison gas attacks on schools in Kabul.
UN: 1 in 5 die before age of 5
Even if such school incidents were actually a result of mass hysteria as suspected at the time, they point to Afghanistan’s massive psychological trauma from war. A 2004 survey in the Journal of the American Medical Association found post-traumatic stress disorder in more than 40 percent of respondents.
UNICEF “continues to regard Afghanistan as being one of the worst countries in the world to be a child.” Speaking of the country as a whole – not just Kabul – the UN agency noted that 1 in 5 children die before the age of 5, the worst infant mortality rate in the world.
Save the Children, meanwhile, calculates that 1 in 4 children in Afghanistan die before the age of 5. With Afghanistan's high fatality rates for infants and children, Save the Children in 2010 rated the central-Asian nation as the worst place in the world to be a mom, behind a string of poor African nations.
Sedwill’s 4-year-old daughter lives in London, points out Mr. Samadi of the Afghanistan Rights Monitor, asking: “Why doesn’t he bring his children to Kabul because it’s safer than London, obviously?”