Stop the War Coalition, October 10, 2011
Afghanistan: worst place for children to be born and raised
Not only do children die, they can also be recruited and used to fight in armed forces and groups
By David Swanson & David Swanson
Afghanistan has been engaged with more than 30 years of war with thousands of civilians killed or injured since 2001.
It is under these conditions that children are at extreme risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
The children of Afghanistan are growing up in one of the least developed countries in the world. Six percent of babies die at birth and 25 percent before their 5th birthday. Conflict and political violence force millions of children and their families to flee their homes and as a result displaced families spend years in situations of uncertainty and insecurity.
Girls face multiple gender discrimination from the earliest stages of their life and throughout childhood. 70 percent of school-age girls do not attend school. Ninety-four percent of births are not registered.
A child's basic right to life and development is seriously compromised for the children growing up amid the conflict in Afghanistan.
(Photo: Zoriah Afghanistan Children)
Hundreds of children continue to die as a result of attacks and air strikes by insurgent groups, international military and armed forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA). During 2009, the UN confirmed that a total of 346 children were killed, of which 131 were killed as a result of air strikes and 22 in night raid operations by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF).
Not only do children die, they can also be recruited and used to fight in armed forces and groups.
Children, especially boys, continue to be sexual abused by armed forces and the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict notes that little has been done to prevent and punish sexual violence.
Around 1.6 million children are left orphaned in Afghanistan mainly due to conflict, depriving these children of family life. The destroyed education infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and, in the face of growing armed attacks to schools, demand for education needs to be bolstered.
A quarter of the world's refugees have come from Afghanistan during this or the preceding wars. Children's rights are compromised primarily by the psychological consequences of the war and violence and their health and nutritional status is a major cause of concern. Hunger, sickness, and deprivation are aggravated, as well as fundamentally caused by, the violence of the war. We need to recognise the children's rights violations in Afghanistan. We need to break the silence and recognise the injustice.
The violations of children's rights documented in this report will shock and outrage most people throughout the world. There are a lot of categories of abuse and a lot of statistics here, but the story they tell is a simple one.
Afghan children are suffering terribly. Afghan children are not a side issue, not collateral damage. The majority of the people in Afghanistan are children. After the first decade of the US-NATO occupation, Afghanistan has become the very worst place on earth to give birth to or raise a child.
Hunger, sickness, and deprivation are aggravated, as well as fundamentally caused by, the violence of the war. A quarter of the world's refugees have come from Afghanistan during this or the preceding wars. Refugee children and the children of refugees have been deprived of a home. But those back home tend to be worse off.
In too many cases, they are deprived of the right to life and development by death rained down from above or kicking in doors at night. In willful or accidental ignorance of the information reported here, commentators justify this war as being fought in the name of human rights by discussing only the sorts of rights that are a top concern to people who are not being bombed or shot or struggling to find food.
Ignorance is a key issue raised by this report. Not only do too many Afghan children lack education, but we lack any knowledge of too many Afghan children.
Ninety-four percent of births are not registered. Twenty-five percent of children born die before their fifth birthday.
There is not a tree-falling-in-the-woods-unheard philosophical enigma here. These children really do exist. They just don't enjoy it very much, and it doesn't last very long.
On August 6, 2011, numerous US media outlets reported "the deadliest day of the war" because 38 soldiers, including 30 U.S. troops, had been killed when their helicopter was shot down.
But compare that with the day of May 4, 2009, discussed in this report, on which 140 people, including 93 children, were killed in U.S. airstrikes. We are denying to each other through silence and misdirection every day that the children of Afghanistan exist. But their deaths are rising.
Their access to hospitals is diminishing. And we believe we are continuing to occupy their country, launch drone strikes, perform night raids, and disappear prisoners for their own good.
What if we're wrong? What if the world outside our little cocoon, the world that recognizes the rights of children, condemns our behavior? What if the option of ceasing to occupy Afghanistan only seems unavailable because, like Afghanistan's children, we refuse to look at it?
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