IRIN, December 3, 2008
AFGHANISTAN: UN calls for more action to protect children
About 60 children were killed when foreign forces bombed a village in Herat Province
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has called on all warring parties in Afghanistan to consider children as "zones of peace" to help protect them against the ravages of war.
Children have been killed, maimed, sexually abused, arbitrary detained and used as suicide attackers in the conflict. Photo Credit: Salih-IRIN
UNICEF says children are among the most vulnerable groups in the conflict; they do not have the capacity to influence the decisions of warring parties and should not be affected by the conflict.
"Parties to the conflict have to take proactive measures to safeguard children from being affected by the ongoing armed conflict, and we will engage them to support and oversee the design of appropriate measures that will prevent further violations," Kristine Peduto, UNICEF child protection specialist, told IRIN in Kabul on 2 December.
Over the past few years "grave violations" have been perpetrated against children by "parties to the conflict, both state and non-state actors", according to the UN.
“Children have been killed, maimed, sexually abused, arbitrarily detained, recruited as foot soldiers, used as suicide attackers and deprived of development and education,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council in November.
The UN report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan illustrates a number of conflict-related issues which have increasingly tormented Afghan children.
Failure to protect children
From July 2007 to July 2008 the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded 1,722 civilian deaths in the conflict.
Whilst children have been killed in deliberate and unintentional attacks, the exact number of child casualties in the conflict is unknown.
At least 52 schoolchildren were killed in a suicide attack followed by an indiscriminate shootout in the northern province of Baghlan on 6 November 2007, UNICEF said. About 60 children were killed when foreign forces bombed a village in Herat Province, western Afghanistan, on 21 August 2008, UNAMA said in a statement.
Warring parties in Afghanistan have been recruiting children and there has been no monitoring of children vulnerable to further recruitment or re-recruitment (Photo: Masoomi/IRIN)
Dozens of children have also been killed by landmines and in armed attacks on schools.
Aid workers in Afghanistan say little attention has been given to the plight of wounded and displaced children.
"Despite past efforts, we have failed to prevent children from being killed and injured as a consequence of military activities. We have failed to prevent them from being deprived of access to education, health and humanitarian assistance. We have failed to prevent them from being recruited, used and sexually abused by security forces and armed groups," UNICEF’s Peduto
Over the past 30 years, children have been used by almost all warring parties for military purposes and as soldiers, aid agencies have said.
UNICEF said it had helped in the disarmament and demobilisation of 7,444 under-age soldiers in the past few years.
However, children are still being recruited by Taliban insurgents and even by the Afghan security forces.
"There has been no monitoring of children vulnerable to further recruitment or re-recruitment," said Ban Ki-moon’s report.
Ban has called on all warring parties in the country to "immediately stop the use, exploitation and recruitment of children" in armed hostilities and ensure humanitarian access to children.
He has also requested the Afghan government and other actors to develop intervention mechanisms to prevent violence against children and respond to their needs.
"The UN is calling on the government of Afghanistan to intensify its efforts to prosecute all perpetrators of crimes committed against children, and calling for legislation to criminalise the recruitment of children in armed conflict," Peduto said.
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