Children in Afghanistan remained highly vulnerable to grave violations, despite an overall decrease in grave violations compared to the last reporting period, following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban, highlights a new report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan released today.

Children’s access to basic services was disrupted due to protracted conflict, displacement, extreme poverty and food insecurity, lack of livelihood opportunities and lack of investment in public services, and natural disasters, increasing their vulnerability to grave violations such as recruitment and use, sexual violence, school drop-out, and unsafe migration, including forced return from Pakistan. The indefinite suspension of girls’ secondary and tertiary education affected girls’ rights to education and exposed them to heightened risks and harmful coping mechanisms.

“Millions of girls continue to be prevented from attending secondary school. This, combined with social norms and harmful traditional practices, has exposed many girls to extreme forms of violence and abusive behaviour, such as honour killings, child marriage, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. The de facto authorities must reopen schools beyond the sixth grade to all girls and lift the suspension on girls’ secondary education and women’s access to university education,” stated Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Overall, 4,519 grave violations against 3,545 children aged from a few months to 17 years were verified between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2022, with most of them attributed to the Taliban. Killing and maiming remained the most prevalent violation followed by denial of humanitarian access which sharply increased within the reporting period and was aggravated by a decree banning Afghan women from working for national and international NGOs, and more recently with the United Nations. Lack of funding for demining activities and the withdrawal of donor support for the Directorate of Mine Action Coordination, as witnessed during 2022, were particularly concerning, especially given that explosive devices were the leading causes of killing and maiming of children.

“Explosive hazards are ubiquitous throughout Afghanistan. Victims continued to find it difficult to access vital medical, financial, and psychosocial aid after these incidents. Global support is essential for the quick removal of explosive threats and explosive ordnance risk education must be scaled up, “added the Special Representative.

The number of children recruited and used also remained high. This trend was exacerbated by the fact that the Taliban continues to deny the international standard definition of a child as a person below the age of 18 years but considers a child as an individual not showing signs of puberty. This has also resulted in children being deprived of liberty on national security-related charges and for alleged or actual affiliation with opposing forces or groups.

Maintaining engagement and progress for Children

The report details engagement and concrete progress achieved with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces before they ceased to exist following the Taliban’s takeover.

While some measures have been taken by the Taliban such as the issuance of decrees banning the recruitment of children “who do not show physical signs of puberty” into the security institutions and the prohibition of the recruitment and presence of minors within the de facto army, as well as the establishment of a Reform Commission, tasked with demobilizing minors from the ranks of the de facto armed forces, child protection provisions are still lacking in the agenda of the de facto authorities.

“I call on the Taliban to adopt concrete child protection measures as discussed in a meeting on July 2022, including the recognition by the Taliban of a child as anyone under 18 years old. Prioritizing and addressing child protection issues such as the prevention of grave violations and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups can benefit long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan, including by breaking ongoing cycles of violations as well as structural inequalities that have disadvantaged children”, concluded Ms. Virginia Gamba.


Overview of grave violations

4,519 verified grave violations against children

Recruitment and use:  257

Killing and maiming: 3,248

Sexual violence: 21

Abduction: 33

Attacks on schools and hospitals: 211

Denial of humanitarian access: 749


For media inquiries, please contact:

Ariane Lignier, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, New York.