Children in Afghanistan face increased risks amid limited access to services: UN report

Photo: UN

Despite a decrease in severe violations, Afghan children continue to face heightened vulnerabilities, the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan revealed.

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, children’s access to essential services has been disrupted by ongoing conflict, displacement, poverty, and natural disasters. This situation has led to an increase in grave violations, including recruitment for combat, sexual violence, school dropouts, and unsafe migration.

The report particularly highlights the dire impact of the Taliban’s indefinite suspension of girls’ secondary and tertiary education. “Millions of girls are barred from attending secondary school, leading to increased exposure to violence and harmful practices like child marriage and domestic abuse,” stated Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

From January 2021 to December 2022, 4,519 grave violations against 3,545 children were verified, with the Taliban responsible for most incidents. The most prevalent violations were killing and maiming, followed by denial of humanitarian access — a situation worsened by a decree prohibiting Afghan women from working with NGOs and the U.N.

The report also expresses concern over the high number of children recruited for combat, exacerbated by the Taliban’s refusal to recognize international standards defining a child as anyone under 18 years old.

Efforts to engage with the Taliban have resulted in some progress, including decrees banning the recruitment of children and establishing a Reform Commission for demobilizing minors. However, Gamba urges the Taliban to adopt more concrete child protection measures, recognizing the long-term benefits for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Summary of violations according to UN report:

Recruitment and use: 257

Killing and maiming: 3,248

Sexual violence: 21

Abduction: 33

Attacks on schools and hospitals: 211

Denial of humanitarian access: 749