Decades of conflict have ravaged much of Afghanistan's once-beautiful land, leaving some of its ornate structures in ruins and many of its people in extreme poverty. Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the world, and conditions in the country's poorest provinces in the northeast are especially challenging.
The prolonged conflicts
in Afghanistan plunged many families into poverty, and some were forced to
relocate to Pakistan or other countries. With the return of some stability in
the country in the past decade, families
have returned to Afghanistan in hopes of rebuilding their lives there. But
many encounter harsh conditions, including a lack of food and water, as well as
basic infrastructure needs, including schools and local government and community
support. Also, girls still face special challenges, from being forced into early
marriages to encountering gender-based violence.
In families living in extreme poverty, children often face the greatest hardships. Around one child in five will not live to see his or her fifth birthday. According to the World Bank, as many as 54 percent of Afghan children suffer from chronic malnutrition due to food scarcity, and almost three-quarters of children in Afghanistan have serious deficiencies of vital nutrients such as iodine and iron.
"It is shocking to learn that children are amongst the most vulnerable segment of the Afghan population, and their lives that could be saved are at risk," said Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Afghanistan's economy minister, at a March 2012 press conference in Kabul. "There is, therefore, a dire need to scale up the ongoing interventions that provide a safety net to the people, so that we can reduce the high mortality rates, particularly among children under 5."
In some cases, parents who were injured during the wars have to rely on their children to earn income, forcing children to drop out of school in order to work. For these children, the chance to learn to read or acquire basic skills is often out of reach, making it even harder for them to break the vicious cycle of generational poverty.
Since 2001, ChildFund
has worked to protect Afghanistan's
most vulnerable children and ensure that they have the resources and support
they need to survive. Expanding access to early childhood development facilities
and education are among our top priorities in Afghanistan, but protecting
children's rights is perhaps even more important.
To raise awareness of this vital issue, ChildFund has established child well-being committees in many Afghan villages, particularly in rural communities in the country's northeastern provinces. These groups help parents and community leaders work together to learn more about children's rights and how vulnerable children can be protected. In addition, we have helped train social workers operating in state institutions to more effectively help children overcome the emotional and psychological scars of abandonment and abuse and reintegrate into society.
ChildFund's initiatives in Afghanistan have focused on protecting and counseling children living in orphanages across the country. This is particularly important for girls, as women are often marginalized in Afghan society, placing girls at significantly greater risk of sexual violence, discrimination and psychological abuse.
Last year, ChildFund helped more than 1,800 displaced and refugee families reintegrate into Afghan society and carried out 75 gender-based violence prevention programs. We also established 215 child well-being committees and 120 family support groups. Although these accomplishments have made a tremendous difference to many Afghan families, many more need our help.
Making a donation to our Essentials for Survival fund or becoming a monthly giving partner enables us to provide vital support to children in need throughout Afghanistan's poorest provinces. To help us bring hope to Afghanistan, please consider making a donation today.