Protection of children affected by the conflict - focus of workshops in eastern Afghanistan
JALALABAD - Community leaders, government officials and international partners must work closer together to help protect and support children affected by the conflict, said participants during UN-backed workshops in Nangarhar and Kunar on children’s rights.
The participants – government officials, civil society representatives and human rights activists, including members of the Child Protection Action Network (CPAN) - highlighted the need for stronger coordination and cooperation among the government institutions, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations. They also called for more events in the districts and remote rural areas to enhance communities awareness about the vulnerability of children in conflict to several dangers and the need for special measures.
The head of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in the country’s eastern region, Sabrina Hamid, while appreciating the current coordination between the district CPAN members and human rights organisations, pointed to the fact that ongoing fighting continues to deprive children of their basic rights and their childhood.
A CPAN focal point from Behsud district, Khan Muhamad, said that during an anti-polio immunization campaign, about 18,000 children in several insecure areas were denied the vaccination due to threat and intimidation by Anti-Government Elements (AGE). Among the total of 21 polio cases reported in Afghanistan in 2018, six were from the eastern region.
In Khogyani district, according to another CPAN focal point, Pachagul, several AGE groups imposed a ban on girls’ high school education. Khair Muhamad, from Dihbala district, reported that schools and residential compounds have been damaged due to increased shelling and armed fighting, while landmines threaten children’s lives. In both of these cases, community elders and religious figures are communicating with AGEs to enable vaccinations and for the girls to return to schools. Afghan security forces and mine clearing organisations have been alerted to clear the area of ordinance.
Ajmal Umarzai from the Department of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled explained that his team is working with Afghan Security Forces and Department of Education for improved access to health care and education for children. He further reported that last year in Nangarhar province, 49 missing and returnee children were reunited with their families and 316 former child workers went to schools with 200 others enrolled into vocational training.
The children’s rights activists expressed their commitment to amplify in their communities the messages that children should be protected from the consequences of war and fighting parties must not harm civilians, as well as their determination to push for greater support for children affected by conflict across the province.
Some of the protection measures currently undertaken are: advocacy with the parties to the armed conflict, in order to minimize children casualties; prevention and response to violence, abuse and exploitation of children as well as redress. Other aspect of the protection is monitoring and reporting of the six grave violations against children: killing and maiming; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence against children; abductions; attacks against schools or hospitals; denial of humanitarian access for children including blockage of food, water and medicine.
CPAN is composed of the representatives of AIHRC, UNAMA, UN Children Fund (UNICEF) and the provincial Department of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled. CPAN operates in more than 30 provinces in Afghanistan.
Similar workshop will take place next week in Laghman.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation.
UNAMA provides 'good offices' and other key services, including diplomatic steps that draw on the organization’s independence, impartiality and integrity to prevent disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. The Mission coordinates international support for Afghan development and humanitarian priorities.