Memorandum submitted by Save the Children
"I would like things to be like they
were before. I want to have more education, to learn to read and
write so I can become a teacher. I want to live in peace".
Fatima, Silo Camp, Mazar-e-Sharif.
"Life here is difficult and seems
pointless. Sometimes we cannot even afford bread and now it is
too cold to be living outside. I earn enough for wood and bread
but nothing else. Usually we eat only bread but some days we do
not even have that. After the last of my children died I could
not get up to work, so we went hungry". Juma, Silo camp,
Almost half of Afghanistan's population consists
of children aged under-eighteen. The combination of endemic poverty,
on-going drought, years of civil unrest and the recent military
action now threatens a major crisis for the children of Afghanistan.
Before October 2001, Afghanistan was already one of the worst
places in the world to be a child. The current humanitarian situation
compounded by conflict, a fourth year of continuous drought, and
the effects of winter, has posed severe threats to child survival,
protection and development. Malnutrition, acute respiratory infections
and vaccine-preventable diseases have claimed children's' lives.
As the violence has continued in parts of the country, thousands
of people have been displaced by the effects of drought and of
the war, affecting children's access to education and basic health
services. At the height of the US bombing campaign, one million
of southern Afghanistan's 4.5 million people were at severe risk,
most of them Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who had been driven
from homes by conflict and drought. Though many of them have now
returned home, 700,000 still remain extremely vulnerable, without
homes, and with no means to support themselves. They are in urgent
need of food, shelter, healthcare, in order to survive.
THE UK GOVERNMENT
Save the Children believes that the UK government
must prioritise the needs of children in its humanitarian assistance
and reconstruction programmes and is calling on the government
Ensure that child protection and
the monitoring of children's rights is integrated into all aspects
of the long-term political reconstruction efforts and that assistance
for projects focusing on the food, shelter, water and sanitation,
health and education needs of children and youth are prioritised.
Integrate child protection into the
mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
mandate and train ISAF peacekeepers in issues of child protection.
Particular attention should be directed
towards separated and orphaned children. Investment in family
tracing mechanisms and systems to support public information relating
to separated children and family tracing should be strengthened.
Maintain a separation of humanitarian,
military, and political activities. Ensure that ISAF peacekeeping
forces focus on their primary role to secure the environment,
and respect the primacy of humanitarian organisations to provide
assistance impartially and independently. Ensure that this separation
is heeded by future ISAF military leaders.
Fully explore the implications of
dispersing humanitarian resources to military entities.
Ensure that the problems of insecurity
in those areas that are not covered by ISAF's mandate, particularly
in northern Afghanistan, are addressed.
Save the Children calls on the UN to:
Increase the resources allocated
to the surveillance, removal and disposal of unexploded ordinances
such as landmines and cluster bombs, since their victims tend
to be innocent civilians, children in particular. Programmes aimed
at promoting mine awareness among IDPs, refugees and children
in urban areas should be increased as an urgent priority.
Ensure that child protection is integrated
into all aspects of UN action and at every stage of its response,
from the relief effort through to post-conflict initiatives to
re-establish institutions. All peacekeeping and UN staff should
be trained on issues of human rights, child rights in particular.
Special attention should be paid to the assistance and protection
needs of female and child-headed households.
Work to ensure that processes of
return and repatriation involve information campaigns that are
accessible to all refugees, women and children in particular,
so that they are aware of what is being planned and how.
Endorse refugee and IDP rights to
security and minimum standards of humanitarian relief.
Improve the IDP registration process
and ensure assistance is equitable to all those in need, not only
Provide assistance to those areas
that have as yet received none, among them Sakhi, Chemtal and
Sar-I-Pol camps in the north where illness and malnutrition amongst
children is a serious concern.
Strengthen the co-ordination of ongoing
relief and rehabilitation efforts to ensure that all current investments
have more impact.
Ensure an appropriate balance of
humanitarian and longer-term interventions.
Develop a comprehensive plan for
assistance to education that builds on the achievements of agencies
working in the education sector.
Increase assistance to programmes
focusing on disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation that
include specific planning aimed at children.
Summary of Humanitarian Conditions
(As stated in the UNOCHA Joint Appeal Prior
to the Tokyo Conference)
Half of all Afghan children suffer
from chronic malnutrition and one out of every four children dies
before reaching the age of five.
There are some 4 million Afghan refugees
of whom 80 per cent are women and children.
The maternal mortality rate is the
second highest in the world with an estimated 16,000 women dying
each year from pregnancy-related causes.
Afghanistan's grain production has
fallen by more than 50 per cent in the past two years, its livestock
herds are severely depleted and its irrigation systems extensively
Only 23 per cent of the population
has access to safe water and only 12 per cent to adequate sanitation.
Afghans have suffered an abysmal
human rights situation for decades. There are particular concerns
for children, women and minorities, as well as specific protection
concerns faced by civilians as a direct result of military or
Egregious acts of violence have been
perpetrated against women. Women and girls have been excluded
from educational opportunities and access to employment.
The primary road network is seriously
deteriorated1,700 km of 3,000 km needs re-building.
Widespread environmental degradation
disproportionately affects the rural poor and women.
Four years of drought and the onset
of winter have further eroded already stretched coping mechanisms.
1. Internally Displaced
As of 30 January 2002, just under one million
people were recorded as being displaced in Afghanistan. Of these,
270,000 are centred around Herat, 171,828 in Mazar, 106,826 in
the province of Laghman, and 84,576 in Nangarhar, both of these
last two in east Afghanistan. The concentrations in Herat and
Mazar are largely drought and poverty-related while those in the
east are more directly attributable to the US military action
in the area and high levels of local instability.
2. IDP Registration
In areas of extreme drought and poverty, local
people's coping mechanisms have reached their limit, leading to
instances of locals attempting to register as IDPs in order to
be eligible to receive food distributions. This practice continues
to be the main factor behind limited UN food distributions being
carried out. In Mazar, according to Save the Children the registration
process is going ahead very gradually, with as few as 200 families
being questioned each day. We urge the UN to develop a more efficient
registration process so that urgently needed humanitarian assistance
reaches those in need, rather than sitting in warehouses.
Refugees continue to cross the border into Pakistan,
particularly from northern and western AfghanistanUNOCHA
estimated the number at 16,500 in the month of January. They are
ostensibly fleeing crime, continued insecurity and military activity,
as well as the effects of drought. However, the numbers of refugees
returning to Afghanistan have been much higher: between November
and mid-January, 100-143,000 Afghans have reportedly returned
home from Pakistan and Iran fleeing attacks by bandits, lack of
supplies, and deportation, among other reasons.
Of these, according to UNHCR, 61 per cent were headed for Kabul
and the surrounding region while 18 per cent returned to the north
of Afghanistan. Several thousand people remain outside Killi Faizo
site in a makeshift waiting area, many of them sleeping without
4. Camps in North West Frontier Province
At the height of the recent conflict, thousands
of Afghans fled to Pakistan-controlled makeshift camps in the
North West Frontier Province (NWFP), among them Jalozai camp.
According to Eva Demant, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Pakistan,
conditions in these camps were a "humanitarian nightmare".
Since November 45,000 Afghans have been driven out of these makeshift
camps by UNHCR and the Pakistan authorities to new UNHCR-run camps
near the Afghan border. However, recent reports from the Refugee
Council state that children have been dying in some of these new
camps. In Barkili camp, refugees have been protesting at the scarcity
of foodstuffs, drinking water and other basic facilities.
In some areas, increasing rather than diminishing
insecurity and fear of lawlessness are making it difficult to
deliver food and other essential assistance to people. According
to reports, this insecurity predominantly involves banditry and
battles between rival warlords. International staff travel is
still restricted and local staff are moving with increased caution
in many areas. While roads in Mazar and its immediate environs
continue to be relatively safe to travel, routes from Mazar to
other locations, such as Hairaton, Jalalabad, south of Qandahar,
and south of Herat remain at high risk. Thousands of ethnic Pashtuns
are fleeing attacks and looting in northern Afghanistan. Attacks
on UN officials, aid workers and aid deliveries have been on the
increase in recent days, with reports of five separate incidents
thus far. The continuation of such insecurity could have serious
implications for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the
return of IDPs and refugees to their communities.
6. Military-Humanitarian Activities
Save the Children's observation is that in the
attempt to bring political, military and humanitarian objectives
within the same framework, humanitarian objectives and principles
have become compromised. Both ISAF and US Coalition forces are
involved in humanitarian aid interventions, compromising the impartiality
of humanitarian aid delivery; confusing local communities; putting
civilians and communities associated with humanitarian work at
serious risk; increasing the dangers of the operating environment
for humanitarian aid workers; and in some cases, obstructing civilians'
opportunity to receive much-needed assistance.
7. Landmines and Cluster Bombs
Landmines, cluster bombs, and other unexploded
ordinance (UXO) are more of a danger after the recent bombing
campaigns. According to the UN Mine Action Program for Afghanistan
(MAPA), the estimated mined area in Afghanistan increased by 100
sq km due to newly surveyed land along Northern alliance front
lines, newly mined regions by the Taliban in Herat and Qandahar,
and new unexploded ordinance threats from the Coalition bombing.
According to the UN Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA),
the US-led Coalition forces bombed 103 sites in Afghanistan with
a total of 1,014 cluster bombs, translating into 250,000 bomblets.
Estimates indicate that at least 25,000 of these remain as UXOs
and need to be destroyed. In total, 10-30 per cent of the cluster
bombs and other UXO and cluster sub-munitions recently dropped
on Afghanistan failed to explode.
8. Civilian Deaths
Estimates of the numbers of civilians killed
in the recent conflict vary widely. According to an MSF assessment
based on reports from hospital and field workers across the country,
2,000-3,000 have died, while de-mining experts estimate that up
to 8,000 civilians have been killed. Carl Conetta at the Commonwealth
Institute estimates that the rate of civilian deaths per bomb
dropped may have been four times higher than in the Balkans.
9. Winter Conditions
During the first two weeks of February Afghanistan
experienced its heaviest snowfall in years, rendering remote parts
of the country accessible only by donkey or helicopter. While
winter has come later this year and is less harsh than was expected,
the snow has continued to hamper food deliveries into Afghanistan's
Despite recent heavy fails, overall snowfall
this winter has been light. This is an indication that drought
will continue to plague Afghanistan for its fourth continuous
year. Little rain has fallen over the Mazar area in the last two
weeks. Drought has caused agricultural production in some areas
to stop altogether, seriously affecting livelihoods and food security.
Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI), diarrhoeal
disease, neonatal tetanus and measles are the leading causes of
child mortality in Afghanistan, and remain a concern for medical
practitioners in the country. Prior to 11 September, 42 per cent
of death cases among children were due to vaccine-preventable
diseases, diahhroeal diseases and ARI.
According to the UN, 35,000 children in Afghanistan will die of
measles this year. There are only 200 doctors in Afghanistan to
service a population of 4.5 million, just 30 of them women.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, Afghan women
both inside Afghanistan and those who have migrated to neighbouring
countries, are at high risk from childbearing due to lack of medical
care. Districts in Badakshan Province, which have been cut off
by snow have still not received any medical attention, meaning
thousands of people have no access to doctors, health care, or
medicines. In Sar-I-Pol, one in six children is suffering from
severe malnutrition, according to MSF. WHO is in negotiation with
WFP to send emergency medicines and supplies by road, but it is
still unclear whether access will be possible.
12. Food Security
More aid is reaching those in need as borders
open up and transport routes are made usable. However, NGOs are
still reporting serious shortages in rural areas, particularly
in the mountainous zones where the delivery of food is still proving
to be difficult. In Samangan Province, according to a WFP assessment,
people are surviving on wild grasses, seeds, leaves and roots,
and the nutritional status of children is particularly poor. In
Badghis Province in Jawand district, an Oxfam assessment found
the humanitarian situation to be very poor and coping mechanisms
to be at rock bottom. For instance, much of the wheat that was
delivered to these people was used to repay debts that were incurred
during the suspension of aid deliveries from September to December
at the height of the military conflict. In West Afghanistan, a
Red Cross/Red Crescent team discovered that girls as young as
ten were being offered for marriage in exchange for bags of flour
in parts of Herat and Farah Provinces, and families were surviving
on leaves and roots. In an assessment of 12 villages in the remote
valley of Rood Gaz, they found that all agricultural activity
had stopped because of the drought, there were no seeds available
for re-planting, and all the livestock had been sold or had died.
Because of delays relating to registration in several parts of
Afghanistan, large amounts of UN agency food still remain in warehouses
in neighbouring countries.
Securing children's education is a principal
concern for refugees who wish to return to Afghanistan. In order
to ensure that refugees schooling is worthwhile, systems must
be put in place whereby qualifications obtained abroad are accepted.
Children must be given more support to reintegrate back into their
school system if they have been following a different curricula
in a different language whilst living as refugees.
14. Child Protection
Children are vulnerable to exploitation in the
current climate of insecurity in Afghanistan. Particularly vulnerable
children include the handicapped, and children who have been separated
from their parents or orphaned. Boys are at risk of being recruited
into combatthough numbers have not been substantiated,
there have been reports of children as young as twelve fighting
for the Northern Alliance.
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict reports for instance,
that 100 Taliban child soldiers were purportedly killed by Northern
Alliance troops in Mazar-I-Sharif. There have also been reports
of young boys being exploited as smugglers of small arms and drugs
in the North West Frontier Province following the collapse of
the Taliban. Young girls meanwhile, risk being lured into prostitution
and early marriage because of poverty and instability.
15. Save the Children Response
The International Save the Children Alliance
(SC) is responding to the deepening humanitarian crisis to ensure
that the survival and protection needs of Afghan children are
given utmost attention over the coming months.
Save the Children (SC) is running a mobile health
clinic programme in Mazar for the local community and internally
displaced people. Since September SC has established four additional
mobile health facilities. In December SC conducted a health survey
in IDP camps and more recently completed health assessments in
the Shiram area and Sayad district of Sar-I-Pol Province, Mingajik
and Mardyan in Jawzjan Province.
SC is carrying out complementary food distribution
to support WFP wheat distributions in North Afghanistan. SC aims
to distribute this food to communities to promote stabilisation
within them and to prevent further migration to IDP camps. In
the future, SC plans to contribute in a nutritional survey for
the seven northern provinces.
SC is distributing shelter items, quilts, children's
and women's clothing, and kitchen kits through partner organisations
to displaced people and local communities in North and South Afghanistan.
An assessment mission is going out to Zari District in Balkh Province
with a view to carry out a large NFI distribution.
Child Protection and Education
SC is running a child protection and education
programme for displaced people on Pianj island on the border of
Afghanistan and Tajilkistan. UNICEF has accepted a SC proposal
to work with a local youth group as part of UNICEF's "back
to school" campaign. SC will cover children's education needs
in most of the districts of Sar-I-Pol Province. SC is also carrying
out assessments of child protection issues and needs in Afghanistan
and is working with children in refugee communities in NWFP to
provide immediate support, and to support their return to Afghanistan.
Save the Children
22 February 2002
1 BAAG Monthly Review, January 2002. Back
UNHCR Monthly Report February 2002. Back
Speech by Eva Dumant, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Pakistan. Back
The Refugee Council is the largest organisation in the UK working
with asylum seekers and refugees. Back
The Guardian 12.02.02. Back
UNICEF Report 2000. Back
Leslie Oqvist, UNDP Regional Co-ordinator for Southern Afghanistan. Back
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. Back