Herat events highlight impact of armed conflict on Afghan children
HERAT - Raising awareness about the dangers to children in armed conflict was the focus of a series of UN-backed events in several Herat schools in recent weeks.
In the latest event, organized this week by the Herat regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and held in the Atefi High School for boys, some 500 students and 30 teachers engaged on a range of issues around children’s rights.
As part of the event, students performed theatrical sketches, essay presentations and poetry recitations to bring the human rights issues to life. Additionally, there was a debate and a special session on mine-risk awareness.
Children in Herat, and across Afghanistan, have become an increasingly vulnerable group in recent years. In UNAMA’s 2017 quarterly update on civilian casualties, released on 27 April and covering the first three months of the year, the mission recorded 735 child casualties, a 3 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2016. Child deaths increased by 17 per cent.
“The 17 per cent increase in child casualties reflects the failure of parties to the conflict to take adequate precautions to protect civilians, including through marking and clearing unexploded ordnance after fighting ends,” said Danielle Bell, UNAMA’s Human Rights Director, in a statement released in April.
A total of 84 per cent of civilians killed or injured by unexploded ordnance were Afghan children in 2016, as detailed in a UN Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict report.
Herat is part of Afghanistan’s western region, which has experienced insecurity owing to insurgent activities in recent years. The mostly rural province lies on old trade routes, with roads running to the bordering countries of Iran to the west and Turkmenistan to the north. Herat is Afghanistan’s primary trade gateway to Iran.
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent national and international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.