AFGHANISTAN: Children, The Forgotten Victims Of The Afghanistan Conflict

Kabul, 3 July 2008 – Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, is concerned that future generations are being put at risk in Afghanistan. “Children are the forgotten victims of the fighting and continue to be neglected”, she said at the end of a 5 day visit in the country.

Ms. Coomaraswamy expressed her concerns about reports of children being used by anti-Government elements, the death and injury children suffer during the fighting, the detention of children, sexual violence against children and the continuing attacks on schools, teachers and school children.

“Children are increasingly reported to be used by armed groups, including the Taliban, as combatants, porters of munitions, informants and in some cases as carriers of improvised explosive devices. Continuing attacks by anti-Government elements are also taking a heavy toll on children,” stated the Special Representative. She was also disturbed by allegations of children crossing borders to take part in armed activities.

According to Ms. Coomaraswamy, the detention of children for alleged association with armed groups by national and international entities and the lack of a clear and transparent procedure for dealing with them must be urgently addressed. “Monitoring bodies should have unimpeded access to all detention facilities. Worrisome allegations about sexual violence against boys by armed actors should also be confronted despite their sensitive nature”, she added.

The recent increase in military operations has resulted in a larger number of deaths and injuries of children. During her visit, Ms. Coomaraswamy met with children and listened to their stories about attacks, night searches and aerial bombardment by military forces active in areas affected by the insurgency. The Special Representative raised the need to limit such incidents with the leadership of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and other international military forces.

NGOs and other humanitarian agencies reported to her the issue of the shrinking of humanitarian space in some areas due to on-going military operations. They also raised the issue of blurring of lines between military and humanitarian activities, especially in the east, south-east and southern regions of the country.

Ms. Coomaraswamy urges all concerned (the Government of Afghanistan, the international community, the Taliban and other anti-Government group) to respect the safety and physical integrity of children as the future of Afghanistan.

“The on-going attacks targeting schools, teachers and school children are a grim reminder that concerted efforts must be made by all parties to the conflict to ensure the safety of children. Schools are to be respected as zones of peace. We must take concrete actions now to better protect children and the future generations of the country”, concluded Ms. Coomaraswamy.

Notes to Editors:

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, accompanied by Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault, Director of the Office of Emergency Programmes for UNICEF, have been visiting Afghanistan for five days this week.

During her visit Ms. Coomaraswamy met with President Hamid Karzai, Government officials, UN Agencies, NGOs and children affected by the conflict. She visited Kabul, Jalalabad and Gardez.

The visit of the Special Representative in collaboration with UNICEF was aiming to establish the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations committed against children in armed conflict pursuant Security Council resolution 1612 (2005). A country report on the grave violations against children in armed conflict in Afghanistan will be prepared for submission by the Secretary-General to the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in October of this year.

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For further information, please contact:

Ms. Laurence Gérard, Liaison Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. Phone: +1 212 963-0984- gerardl@un.org