NEW YORK, 19 July (Office of the Special Representative — Olara A. Otunnu, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, will visit Afghanistan from 22 to 28 July to help highlight the devastating consequences of the conflict on the children and youth of Afghanistan, in the context of his mandate to promote the protection, rights, and well-being of children affected by war. In particular, the Special Representative will seek to:
— Assess first-hand the impact of the years of war on the children of Afghanistan;
— Give voice and support to the war-affected children in the peace consolidation process;
— Help to make the protection, rights and well-being of children central to Afghanistan s recovery and development;
— Help to promote the participation of children and youth in national reconciliation and healing; and
Contribute to building national child-protection capacity, as a critical part of the humanitarian relief effort, reconstruction and longer-term development.
Children under 18 constitute nearly half of Afghanistan s population of
22. 7 million — 25 per cent of children in the country die before the age of five; 50 per cent of all Afghan children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and 66 per cent of them have witnessed a violent death. During the protracted conflict, an estimated 2 million children were refugees or internally displaced, and less than one third of boys and fewer than one tenth of girls participated in some form of primary education. Approximately, 35,000 children have been victimized by land mines in this most mine-contaminated country in the world; 40 per cent of children living in Kabul have lost at least one parent; and in the same city, an estimated 50,000 street children are their household s primary income earners.
The Special Representative will travel to Kabul and to other regions in the country, including Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. He will visit children in internally displaced persons camps and will engage national and international decision-makers to seek their commitments concerning the rights, protection and
well-being of children. Mr. Otunnu will meet with children and youth, with civil society groups, non-governmental organizations (national and international), United Nations humanitarian and development workers involved in child protection and welfare, national authorities and professional associations. On 28 July, the Special Representative will address the international conference Building a Peaceful Future for Afghanistan: A Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines in Kabul.
The Special Representative serves as international advocate for children affected by armed conflict by promoting standards and measures for their protection in times of war, as well as their healing and social reintegration in the aftermath of conflict.
For further information from the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, please contact in New York: Maimouna Mills, Communications Officer, telephone: (212) 963-9879; Facsimile: (212) 963-0807;e-mail: mills@un. org