Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell at the end of three-day trip to Afghanistan
KABUL/NEW YORK, 25 February 2022 – “Decades of conflict, a devastating drought, a collapsing economy and the impact of international sanctions are causing irreparable damage to the children of Afghanistan.
“I have just finished a short visit to the country and what I saw gave me cause for grave concern.
“In the streets of Kabul, scores of very young children dart in and out of traffic, chasing cars and asking for money. Store shelves and vegetable markets are well stocked, yet hardly anyone can afford to buy. In a hospital in Kandahar, emaciated babies lie motionless two to a bed, too weak to even cry amid a spike in cases of severe acute malnutrition. A 25-year-old mother of five told me that her family subsists on a diet of bread and water.
“And things are poised to get even worse. According to our projections for 2022, more than 1 million children will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Nearly 13 million children will need humanitarian assistance. Diseases like measles and acute watery diarrhoea will continue to spread. Up to 97 per cent of all Afghan families could be living below the poverty line in a matter of months.
“This is no way to live. The children of Afghanistan cannot be held hostage to politics. Decisions and actions taken today will dictate whether these children live or die, whether they suffer or thrive, and ultimately, whether the country survives or declines.
“The boys and girls I spoke to have dreams, but they can’t fulfil them if they continue to be shut out of school, if they have to work on the streets, if they are married off in exchange for dowry, if their parents have no jobs, or if they are dying from hunger.
“We can, and must, do better for them.