Child Soldiers in Afghanistan
Since the Taliban overthrew the Afghani central government in 2021, the nation has experienced increased human rights violations such as the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Afghanistan.

Rise of the Taliban

The Taliban, meaning “students” in Pashto, is a conservative political-religious movement founded during the 90s amid the Afghan War which lasted from 1978-1992. The group originated as a modest band of religious scholars and students whose aim was to fight crime and corruption in Afghanistan. After deposing the Soviet-sponsored government, the group went on to establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and institute rigid Islamic law significantly impacting women’s livelihoods, religious minorities and political opponents.

Current Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban launched its campaign to take over Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Soon after the initial assault on September 7, 2021, the Islamic fundamentalist group declared itself as the interim government without communicating its plans for establishing a new central government. Since the hostile takeover, the U.N. has observed growing human rights violations, including forceful censorship of journalists and protestors, regression of women’s rights, worsening socio-economic conditions, an increase in child marriage and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Child Soldiers

The U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report identifies a state’s ability to combat human trafficking and assess the implementation of child soldiers. The Department of State reported Afghanistan as a “Tier 3” country, indicating failure to report cases of trafficking and a lack of serious reduction efforts.

The use of child soldiers in Afghanistan is not a new phenomenon. Before the insurgency, the Afghan government made an effort to address the symptoms of trafficking by developing awareness programs to prepare officials to respond to such cases. Through government-sanctioned Child Protection Units (CPUs), between April 2020 and March 2021, Afghani authorities thwarted the recruitment of more than 5,000 children into armed government groups and programs and identified 20 within the military.

However, the effects of the Taliban’s takeover and the COVID-19 pandemic have hindered the state’s capacity to protect, maintain or counter threats to civil liberties, including the use of children in the militia. Before and after the insurgency of August 15, 2021, the Taliban continued to illicitly use child soldiers in combative roles such as planting and setting off IEDs, carrying out suicide attacks, transporting weapons, standing guard and spying. The Taliban has ceased to investigate, prosecute or prevent cases of trafficking or recruiting. The Insurgent forces continue to eliminate shelters and protective services for victims, resulting in a more vulnerable population.

Without a centralized infrastructure or agency to provide services, Afghan children are more susceptible to recruitment and trafficking. The Taliban has made NGOs operating within Afghanistan useless as the group has imposed crippling restrictions on humanitarian aid, ransacked the few remaining shelters and threatened humanitarian staff. The Taliban has recruited children in Afghanistan from madrassas or religious schools. The children are indoctrinated and prepared to fight in exchange for protection. Moreover, the Taliban also targets children from Afghanistan’s more impoverished rural regions, exemplifying the role of poverty in the assimilation of children into the armed forces. Young boys living in dire economic circumstances see fighting as a means to a better life. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.

The Road Ahead

It has been a year since the collapse of the central Afghan government, and conditions within the state remain concerning. Without proper protective and preventive services, children and women and girls remain Afghanistan’s most vulnerable. The U.N. has documented hundreds of human rights violations against children along with increased attacks on schools, hospitals and humanitarian shelters. The Taliban’s presence continues to exacerbate Afghanistan’s worsening socio-economic systems, poverty and food insecurity, thus, increasing the presence of child soldiers among their ranks.

The Taliban’s continued presence in Afghanistan and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic remain the biggest threat to the well-being of Afghan citizens. Thousands of children stay within the Taliban’s ranks serving in dangerous combative roles. With the U.N. and NGOs calling for urgent humanitarian aid, hope remains for a decrease in the number of children becoming child soldiers in Afghanistan.

– Ricardo Silva
Photo: Flickr

U.K.'s Foreign Aid
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been facing significant challenges in helping Afghans struggling with poverty and food insecurity. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) said that “nearly 20 million people are facing food insecurity” in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the IPC said that 6.6 million of them are struggling with “acute hunger.” The key factors exacerbating food insecurity in Afghanistan are sharp economic decline, drought and high prices for food. However, the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP alleviates that burden which allows the organization to help the Afghans.

The Importance of Foreign Aid

The financial assistance from the U.K. and even other countries, allowed the WFP to provide nutritional support and emergency food to 17 million Afghans, according to the WFP’s website. This highlights the importance of foreign aid spending in saving the lives of those living in poverty or below the poverty line.

There was a feeling of hopelessness amongst international affairs observers regarding Afghanistan after the Taliban came back to power and the economy deteriorated sharply. Nevertheless, the financial assistance the WFP has received from countries willing to help gives people hope that Afghanistan can be rebuilt one Afghan at a time. The proof is in the accounts of the Afghans the WFP is helping.

The Success Story of Alia and Her Husband

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the pandemic has caused many Afghans, especially women, to lose their jobs and livelihoods. Alia used to own a beauty parlor in Afghanistan and her husband worked as a mechanic and both provided for their “four sons and three daughters,” the WFP reported.

However, after the economy collapsed and the Taliban took over, Alia lost her job because the Taliban would not allow women to work and her husband stopped working “because of health problems.” Nevertheless, the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP gave Alia, her husband and her children income and food. Furthermore, their children were also able to go to school afterward. However, they are not the only Afghans who received foreign aid that stabilized their lives.

The Story of Asefullah and His Family

Asefullah is a 13-year-old kid living in the Khost Province of Afghanistan with his “family of seven.” The family is living in poverty and their only source of income is the oldest sibling who “makes enough to buy bread and nothing else,” according to the WFP. However, after the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP, Asefullah and his family “no longer face many problems” because the food they have received kept them “alive for the past nine months.”

The story of Alia, Asefullah and their families shows the necessity of preserving or even increasing, foreign aid to developing and war-torn countries. Foreign aid not only reduces poverty but also saves families struggling to make a living.

How Much the UK and Other Countries Spend on Foreign Aid

The foreign aid budget is the most important tool in the international effort to tackle poverty. As of May 16, 2022, the U.K. is spending “about £11.5 billion” every year on foreign aid and international development. Forty percent of the aid budget goes to international organizations such as the U.N. and the World Bank. Liz Truss, the U.K.’s Foreign Secretary, stated on May 16 2022 that the aim of the U.K.’s foreign aid budget is “improving economic security worldwide and increasing jobs and growth at home,” according to BBC.

Furthermore, on May 16, 2022, the U.K.’s foreign office pledged to spend £3 billion on humanitarian aid “over the next three years,” considering it “a priority,” BBC reported. In fact, the U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP in 2021 was £376.260.054 making it the fourth-largest donor in 2021. In other words, the lives of people struggling with poverty and food insecurity depend on the foreign aid budget of countries, specifically powerful ones such as the U.S. and the U.K.

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, many countries had to reduce their foreign aid spending due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, it was reasonable to conclude that countries would not be able to tackle poverty and food insecurity in developing countries. Nevertheless, U.K.’s foreign aid to the WFP managed to stabilize the lives of families in Afghanistan. Therefore, this proves that the recent trend of reducing the foreign aid budget has not impacted the determination of powerful countries to help the vulnerable in developing countries globally.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education in Afghanistan
The health of higher education in Afghanistan is a product of invasion and civil war. The tumultuous nature of Afghanistan’s history has left obstacles in the path of educational institutions. This takes the form of many hindrances, such as the country’s current political stability or the ruling leader’s tendency for tradition. In the absence of education, economic instability and a lower standard of living may follow.

Turbulent Establishment

The establishment of formal modern education in Afghanistan didn’t exist until 1875. However, it was not until 1919 that the number of established institutions exceeded four. In 1929, during his nine-month rule, Habibullah Kalakany closed girls’ schools and stopped female students who went abroad from continuing their studies. Shortly after, Zahir Shah allowed girls once more the freedom of education. He also established the first small sign of higher education in Afghanistan, the Kabul Medical Faculty in 1932.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, Afghanistan’s educated class grew the strongest. However, the Soviet invasion in 1979 devastated the infrastructure of higher education in Afghanistan. An entire generation of the educated class disappeared, either killed or escaped. The Taliban occupation of Afghanistan further hindered the integrity of higher education. These disastrous conflicts rendered Afghanistan one of the most impoverished in the world.

Brain Drain

“Brain Drain” is a dire issue for the infrastructure and further human development of Afghanistan. This occurs when young Afghans receive degrees from institutes of higher learning and prefer job opportunities or the standard of living outside of their home country. Generally, when facing a crisis, the number of educated emigrants produced by a country will be higher than the number of educated citizens in that country.

The effects of brain drain directly impede further infrastructure development in Afghanistan, continually reducing the country to a state of stagnant reconstruction. The country’s condition of low development poses a threat to the advancement of higher education. According to a study by David J. Roof, in 2014, the higher education enrollment ratio in Afghanistan was around 5%, among the lowest in the world.

The World Bank suggests that Afghanistan could follow the strategies of other developing countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka in order to reduce the brain drain. This includes offering tenure tracks to young academics or encouraging studying abroad.

The Taliban’s Effects on Women’s Education

Many commonly think that in repressive regimes, the educated will bring the most opposition. The Taliban’s recapture of Kabul in 2021 initiated one of the world’s most critical humanitarian crises, leaving millions of Afghans starving and unable to collect salaries. However, young academics, specifically women, are being further barred from receiving higher education due to new Taliban decrees, which also restrict women’s freedom to work or leave the house.

In September 2021, the Taliban regime allowed women to continue studying in gender-segregated universities under strict dress codes. However, in March 2022, it banned the opening of schools for girls and women past the sixth grade.

This decision could divert international donations and deepen the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Foreign Aid

According to the U.N. Human Development Report, in 2020 Afghanistan ranked 169th of 189 countries based on the Human Development Index. An increase in foreign aid or grants focused on bolstering higher education would greatly benefit the country economically and politically by creating and filling jobs as well as providing a future for a more stable government.

In June 2021, the World Bank approved an $18 million grant to Afghanistan through the Higher Education Acceleration Transformation Project to bolster the infrastructure, quality and accessibility of higher education. A majority of this grant will help develop educational facilities, support teachers and improve curriculum and textbooks.

An additional goal of this grant is to empower women in higher education to pursue leadership positions, as only 30% of students of higher education in Afghanistan are women.

Due to gender disparities in higher education within Afghanistan, advocacy has mostly focused on increasing the accessibility of education to female students. The World Bank grant is a large step forward in opening up opportunities for Afghan women.

USAID has also drastically aided in the development of higher education in Afghanistan, focusing on matching universities and the labor market to cultivate 31 new degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, the USAID PROMOTE scholarship will award up to 900 Afghan women the opportunity to seek both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to diversify academia in Afghanistan.

Higher education in Afghanistan is unfortunately a framework of feeble institutions that heavily rely on foreign aid. Foreign aid has become the most important factor in the development of education infrastructure in Afghanistan, and actions by the World Bank and USAID have alleviated some of the negative effects of brain drain and gender inequality.

– Caroline Zientek
Photo: Flickr

Refugees from Afghanistan
After 20 years out of power, in August 2021, the Taliban seized the capital of Kabul after the collapse of the Afghan government. With many Afghans opting to flee the country in search of safer and more stable pastures, the nation’s neighboring countries are experiencing an increase in refugees from Afghanistan. Although the reign of the Taliban brings increased instability to the country, Afghans were already fleeing the nation years prior. In fact, apart from fearing that “[the Taliban] will impose harsh rule, neglect to provide basic services and abuse human rights, “many Afghans are leaving due to the severe humanitarian crisis in the nation. Due to these worsening conditions, countries and organizations are trying to assist vulnerable Afghans.

Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

In October 2021, Afghanistan’s poverty rate stood at 72%, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) expects this rate to increase to a staggering 98% by the middle of 2022. Moreover, about 19 million Afghans are suffering from acute levels of food insecurity. Because of these conditions, people are fleeing Afghanistan in search of a better life. According to the UNHCR, almost 6 million Afghans face forced displacement. Estimates indicate that there are about 3.5 million internally displaced Afghans and roughly 2.6 million Afghan refugees residing in other nations. Compounding issues further, Afghanistan is facing a severe drought that has already led to the malnourishment of 50% of Afghan children.

The Taliban Takeover

The Taliban is a group of religious students from Afghanistan who aim to seize power to “restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law.” The Taliban began taking over parts of Afghanistan in 1994. In 1996, the group took over the capital of Kabul, and by 1998, had garnered control “over most of the country.”

During its time in power, the Taliban imposed harsh laws “forbidding most women from working, banning girls from education and carrying out punishments including beatings, amputations and public executions,” among other horrific punishments and restrictions. In 2001, a United States-led invasion is able to remove the Taliban from power. Unfortunately, “the Taliban reemerge” in 2006. In April 2021, after “President Biden announces the withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of September 2021, the Taliban gains traction taking over more areas. By August 2021, the Taliban seizes the capital of Kabul.

Halting Aid to Afghanistan

With the Taliban in power, Afghanistan is facing a colossal economic crisis. Afghanistan was heavily dependant on international aid even before the Taliban takeover — 40% of its GDP comes from foreign aid. The World Bank has stated that “about 75% of public finances were supplied by grants from the U.S. and other countries.” Now, the Afghani currency has lost all its value.

In August 2021, when it became apparent that the Taliban would seize Afghanistan, global powers, such as the United States, chose to halt foreign assistance to Afghanistan, as did the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Furthermore, before, families relied on money from family members outside of the country. However, Western Union and MoneyGram removed their assistance and services in Afghanistan, causing the deprivation of money from families abroad.

Evacuating Afghans

Days after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the United States began the evacuation process of Afghans. In truth, the United States helped evacuate about 125,000 people for relocation. Unfortunately, thousands of Afghans who hoped to leave the country did not have the opportunity to evacuate, even some with passports. Many of the evacuees received special visas for “their service alongside coalition military forces” or their work “with foreign-funded programs.” A more minimal number of evacuees able to board the planes as refugees from Afghanistan were “Afghans seeking visas or asylum based on their fear of persecution due to their identity.”

Refugees from Afghanistan Receive Assistance

Due to the influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the United Nations has requested that countries nearby “keep their borders open.” In September 2021, several governments pledged to “resettle refugees from Afghanistan,” including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and Costa Rica. The countries specify maximum intake numbers, with some only accepting Afghans who fall into a specific vulnerable group or who hold specific jobs. The U.S. also pledged to take in 62,500 Afghans by the end of September 2021.

Amid a crumbling nation and citizens facing dire conditions, the international community is giving hope to Afghans for a better future with several countries willing to assist in the relocation of refugees from Afghanistan.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Aiding Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has been experiencing challenges economically, socially and politically. While these situations are affecting its citizens and the world, children and women are the most vulnerable members of the community, leading to many being impoverished, but there are ways that people/organizations are aiding women in Afghanistan.

About the Situation

Uncertainty has been governing Afghanistan since the outbreak of the crisis. Many escalations in violence have occurred since the impositions of new authorities. Over half a million of the population have demanded humanitarian assistance.

After 40 years of social crisis, poverty, several natural disasters and the outbreak of COVID-19 and the Taliban rule have increased poverty rates drastically. Both factors are a deadly combination for people in Afghanistan. About “50% of those in need in Afghanistan are women and girls.” Summing up, the outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed thousands of people to poverty, especially women and girls, affecting global poverty rates.

Women and girls are the most vulnerable group in society. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is highly worried about how women and girls will overcome the situation in  Afghanistan. As a fundamental human right, women’s rights must receive respect. By consequence, all services must undergo proper delivery, ensuring all women and girls have access to health services, to freely work and go to school.

The Concerns of the International Community

The international community is aware that as the crisis escalates, women living in poverty in Afghanistan increase too. Levels of domestic violence, abuse and exploitation are dramatically increasing as global poverty rates are tremendously increasing. Elinor Raikes, IRC vice president and head of program delivery states, “We know that during times of crisis, violence against women and girls increases. With uncertainty mounting throughout Afghanistan, the IRC is concerned that we could see an increase in violence against women as well as an increase in child marriage.”

The international community is heavily working on reducing global poverty on reducing poverty in Afghanistan. It is essential for world leaders to drive an international plan and work on the solution. Since August 2021, the international humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan has received only 38% of its necessary funding. According to data “the shortfall could mean that 1.2 million children will lose specialized protection services, making them more vulnerable to violence, recruitment, child labor, early and forced marriages, and sexual exploitation.”

Challenges for Women in Afghanistan

Data has demonstrated that women are the most vulnerable group in society. Since the outbreak of the crisis, “1.4 million women, many of them survivors of violence, will be left without safe places to receive comprehensive support.”

Several attacks have been taking place in small villages and schools. As a result, many girls will lack access to education. According to the report published by UNICEF, “An estimated 3.7 million children are out-of-school in Afghanistan. 60% of them are girls.” Undoubtedly, girls are the ones suffering the major consequences of the crisis in Afghanistan, impacting global poverty.

The challenge of women in Afghanistan is a significant topic across the world today. The Taliban is constantly oppressing women and limiting women’s rights. Thus, gender equality which had been progressing in the country has suddenly diminished as the new authorities are pushing back all the effort done. As mentioned above, many girls are not going to school and women have been limited the rights they had. As a consequence, women in Afghanistan fall into poverty as they cannot access a job.

How Some are Aiding Women in Afghanistan

The World Bank has highlighted a few of the national programs established in Afghanistan to help women and mobilize social groups. Women Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project (WEE-RDP) is the most popular national approach in Afghanistan. As the World Bank reported, “These groups help their members access financial services and start small businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-help groups have also provided critical support for health and livelihoods.”

In conclusion, the Taliban’s rule is becoming a major concern for the world. Undoubtedly, national and international approaches have undergone implementation with the purpose of aiding women in Afghanistan and reducing poverty.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

The Afghanistan CrisisIn early April 2021, the President of the United States Joe Biden announced that he would be withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In the months following the announcement, increasing issues have plagued the Middle Eastern country. The resurgence of the Taliban and the rapid collapse of the Afghan army are examples. Over a few months, the Taliban aggressively took over parts of Afghanistan; at one point, it circled the capital of Kabul before taking over. In the aftermath of the Afghanistan crisis, the country’s citizens are facing many challenges.

The U.S. spent 20 years and an estimated $83 billion to help build the Afghan army, not including larger costs to fight the war in Afghanistan overall. Both U.S. and Afghan soldiers worked to overthrow the Taliban government and stabilize the country.

Taking Over Afghanistan

When the U.S. completely withdrew its forces, the Taliban invaded and took over U.S. military bases that the Afghan army operated. The Taliban took over at least two-thirds of the country’s provincial capitals in the time it took for the U.S. to take out its troops.

The Taliban took advantage of the United States’ departure, and from the months of May and June, it began its conquest over the country. In those months, Afghanistan saw significant violence compared to the past two decades.

The Taliban started its attacks to take over the country in haste. It targeted the northern part of the country, maximizing its influence and existing strongholds. It had control over 50 of the 370 districts as of June 22.

“The Taliban contest or control an estimated 50 to 70 per cent of Afghan territory outside of urban centers, while also exerting direct control over 57 per cent of district administrative centers,” said the U.N. report.

Consequences that the People are Facing

The Taliban gained more and more ground, seizing major cities all throughout the country. Its actions led to negative effects on the people who live in Afghanistan. Many abandoned their homes in fear of their lives. As the Taliban continued its conquest of the country, the people have been caught in the crossfire, even in attacks in major cities. Videos and photographs have emerged of insurgents going into people’s homes and lynching families, even taking the lives of children.

In the face of this, civilians tried to get out in any way they could. As they sought refuge anywhere they could in the aftermath of the Afghanistan crisis, several countries gave them permission to enter and be safe behind their borders.

“The Taliban have been executing people summarily, they have been lashing women, they have been shutting down schools. they have blown up hospitals and infrastructure,” said former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani in an interview with NPR.

Responses from Other Countries

The government of Canada has decreed that it will take in about 20,000 Afghan refugees into its country in the aftermath of the Afghanistan crisis. This includes women leaders, government workers and others whose lives are in danger. Refugees will receive shelter and aid as they escape from a hostile environment. Even neighboring countries like Pakistan and Turkey have extended their hand in taking in civilians fleeing Afghanistan.

“The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking and Canada will not stand idly by,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in a news conference.

Despite the withdrawal, the United States, under the orders of President Biden, decided to aid Afghan in the face of the Taliban problem. This included intensified airstrikes to help counter the Taliban’s advance and assistance in evacuating diplomats from embassies amid the Taliban takeover.

– Demetrous Nobles
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Afghanistan
Following decades of civil war and negligence, Afghanistan has been experiencing a crisis regarding clean water and sanitation. The lack of an internal plan and a water infrastructure deficit had elicited urgent consequences such as various waterborne diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. Many organizations such as UNICEF took notice and decided to address this issue at its core. By providing funding and necessary resources, there has been evident progress within Afghanistan towards clean water and better sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Sanitation in Afghanistan

  1. Limited Sanitation: According to the State of the World’s Toilets 2007 report, about 92 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 26.6 million population did not have access to proper sanitation. Meanwhile, the number reduced to 61 percent by 2017. With this being said, poor sanitation exposes people, mainly children and elders, to life-threatening diseases. This issue also affects women and girls, putting them at risk for both physical and psychological damage. It affects menstrual, pregnancy and postnatal periods and creates an unsafe environment when in these periods.

  2. Turmoil: One can see the increasing number of cases surrounding poor sanitation as a direct consequence of the damage inflicted by years of war. Beginning in 1992, constant fighting between different mujahidin groups left cities such as Kabul in ruins, further damaging the water infrastructure. Following in 1996, the Taliban took over but did little to nothing to improve the already damaged water infrastructure, including necessary water pumps. Afghanistan, to this day, is still in turmoil, leaving no priority for local governments to improve sanitation and increase access to clean water.

  3. Lack of Reservoirs, Canals and Infrastructure: One major aspect as to why Afghanistan has a difficult time accessing clean water is the evident lack of water infrastructure. Geographically, Afghanistan is a landlocked nation that automatically creates a difficult landscape to receive clean water; therefore, Afghanistan depends on the natural flow of the snow runoff coming from the mountains. There are reservoirs to collect this water, but it is just not enough. Because of the lack of proper water infrastructure, only 30 percent of the water derived from the runoff stays in Afghanistan. Investment towards improving infrastructure is also scarce as the government does not see it as a prominent issue.

  4. Open Defecation: Open defecation is an issue that many countries face on a daily basis; however, it has been an astonishingly prevalent issue in Afganistan. It places many of the individuals and families leaving near waterways in much danger as human waste spreads disease quickly. To combat this issue, UNICEF alongside the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health and Education have partnered to end open defecation by 2025. They are pushing for the Community-Led Total Sanitation approach which advocates for people to build and use their own latrines.

  5. Increase Water Supply: In addition to implementing a plan against open defecation, UNICEF and the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health, and Education have been working to increase water supply to impoverished communities. They aim to steer the public to get clean water through the reliance of rivers, streams, wells, etc. Also, UNICEF aims to increase the government’s capacity to construct local water supply systems. Because of this new agenda, more than 300,000 new people living in Afghanistan received clean water in 2017.

  6. Water Systems: UNICEF is prioritizing gravity-fed piped drinking water systems or systems with solar pumps instead of regular boreholes with handpumps. These methods should provide more water, easy maintenance and close proximity even though they are slightly more expensive. Right now, most of the water comes from the five major rivers in Afghanistan, but this system brings water in an efficient and sustainable way.

  7. Action Within Schools: An important place to advocate for proper sanitation would be in the school environment, and UNICEF has done just that. Working with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF has aimed to create clean school environments and provide proper hygiene information in Afghanistan. This plan includes providing clean water, separate bathrooms and new handwashing stations in schools. This program is growing and is starting to enter more schools.

  8. Sanitation Efforts Aimed at Women: Some have also taken action towards improving sanitation conditions within schools and workplace settings for women and girls. By installing separate bathrooms for males and females, it provides women the opportunity to manage menstruation in a clean environment. Also, the ongoing introduction of curricula surrounding menstrual hygiene promotes rehabilitation and helps girls all around Afghanistan.

  9. Proper Sanitation in Emergencies: Launched in 2005, UNICEF created the WASH emergency center in Afghanistan. This group of various organizations respond during emergencies and help provide clean water, hygiene education and sanitation facilities to the people. For example, they gave hygiene kits to displaced families in the village of Kamalpoor. The kits included soap, detergent, towels, sanitary pads and a plastic bucket to collect water.

  10. Health Centres: Most importantly, UNICEF has aimed to make sure that hospitals and health centers are in proper condition to treat patients. The WASH program implemented focused on improving infection programs and patient safety. It is important to pay attention to the health of patients and to decrease as many cases of disease and death as possible, especially in the case of women and children.

Although Afghanistan still has some way to go, it has made tremendous improvements to its sanitation systems. With continued aid from organizations like UNICEF, it should only continue its progression towards clean water and sanitation for all.

–  Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Afghanistan
Child labor is prevalent in Afghanistan partly due to the quarrelsome war between its government and the Taliban. The country remains one of the poorest in the world where corruption and greed riddle workplaces. Children work long hours and in servile ways to provide goods for their families. It is the only way they are able to survive in an environment marked by poor conditions and minimal social opportunities. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Afghanistan.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Afghanistan

  1. The Motivation for Child Labor: A quarter of kids between the ages of 5 and 14 in the country suffer the burden of working in jobs that are hazardous to their health and well being. The main reason kids work is to help their families survive economically and bring food to the table.
  2. Types of Labor: Children work in many dangerous jobs, such as metal workers, tinsmiths, welders, miners, in the carpet industry and street vendors where the hours are long and the pay is not favorable. One of the jobs that children most fear is bonded labor where they work in brick kilns. Bosses force the children to owe a debt and it becomes insurmountable. The salary children earn is not enough to help them and their families afford a daily meal.
  3. Minimum Employment Age: Afghanistan’s labor law states that the minimum employment age is 18 and prohibits children under 14 from working. Children between the ages of 15 and 17 can work in jobs that express vocational training where the environment is not harmful. The hazardous conditions children must go through at work violates the country’s labor laws.
  4. Limited Enforcement of Labor Laws: According to the Human Rights Watch, the labor law was due for an overhaul to meet international standards, but the government abated its plans to do so. This further interfered with the notion of a child-labor-free country. The safety of children is in jeopardy because the government has not enforced the prohibition against child labor. Children working in prohibited and dangerous jobs go unnoticed as a result of the government’s lack of capacity to inspect workplaces.
  5. Terrorist Groups: Every day, the country’s ongoing war makes matters worse by forcing children to live in constant fear. Various cities in Afghanistan become targets for terrorist groups on a daily basis. Children are at high risk of armed groups abducting them as well as being vulnerable to spontaneous attacks. Armed groups recruit children for use in an armed conflict where many of them face serious injuries, psychological damage and death. In 2018, the country’s government opened a juvenile rehabilitation center for kids formally involved in an armed conflict where it served 34 children.
  6. A Barrier to Education: According to Afghanistan’s Central Statistics, 55 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty. Illiteracy occurs because of the country’s high poverty level where many parents are not able to afford the prices for their children’s education. Around 3.7 million kids between the ages of 7 and 17 do not attend school, and 60 percent of them are girls. Children lose the opportunity to go to school because they need to work long hours in order to make a living and provide for their families’ basic needs. Armed groups constantly target school buildings to use as training grounds, leaving many kids in fear of attending classes.
  7. Girls Education: There is a very low enrollment rate for girls due to the lack of female teachers in Afghanistan. The education system is flawed and only 48 percent of teachers in the country possess minimum academic qualifications. Many schools lack the proper sanitation facilities needed to encourage girls to enroll and only 16 percent of schools in the country are all-girls.
  8. Girls’ Access to Teacher’s Education: To improve conditions, Girls’ Access to Teacher’s Education, a UNICEF supported program, offers a training course to female students in high-school who want to become teachers. UNICEF supported 5,300 community-based schools and accelerated learning centers in 2018, where children learn critical life skills and basic literacy and numeracy skills. As a result, 150,000 students, more than half of them girls, benefited from the organization’s well-doing. In addition, UNICEF worked with the Ministry of Education to provide hand washing stations, safe drinking water and menstrual hygiene curricula to various schools in the country.
  9. Dangers of Migration: Many children flee Afghanistan as a result of the violence and poverty that plague the country. Some kids go to Iran where they continue to work in hazardous environments. They do not attend school. Returnees are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups and traffickers.
  10. Displacement Due to Natural Occurences: Displacement of populations is a constant occurrence in the country and a major cause of child labor. It is also a reason why poverty remains persistent. Natural occurrences such as floods force families to leave their communities and start a new life. In 2018, a displacement of 266,000 people in the northern and western parts of Afghanistan came as a result of severe drought, further perpetuating child labor along with the selling of daughters for marriage.

The 10 facts about child labor in Afghanistan above demonstrate how the country is in a state of crisis due to high poverty levels among the population. Child labor remains a main obstacle that people around the world need to be aware of in order to make a difference. Afghanistan’s current war only adds to the challenge. However, organizations like UNICEF are working hard to fix the issue and inspire economic progress.

– Eduardo Hernandez
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai is a well-known Pakistani activist campaigning for education rights, particularly for young girls. In light of her mission and her extraordinary achievements, here are 12 facts about Malala Yousafzai.

12 Facts About Malala Yousafzai

  1. Malala was born in the Swat District of Pakistan. This region fell under the rule of the Taliban, which is a fundamentalist terrorist group that imposes highly restrictive rules on women and girls. The Taliban banned girls from attending school or receiving an education of any kind.
  2. Her father was a teacher and ran a chain of schools throughout the local region. He continuously encouraged all of his children to learn despite the societal restrictions. Malala credits her father for inspiring her to pursue further education and humanitarian work.
  3. Malala blogged for BBC for several years. In 2008, BBC Urdu journalists began looking for a young student to share private insight on what life was like under the Taliban. Despite the danger of being caught, Malala’s father recommended her for the assignment and she began blogging in secret, anonymously chronicling her life and her perspective on the rule of the Taliban. She was 11 years old.
  4. Malala started to gain notoriety from standing up to the Taliban publicly. With her father’s blessing, she openly opposed the Taliban rules set in place and began working to regain access to education for both herself and other girls throughout the region.
  5. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 due to her activism and was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize that same year. The Prime Minister of Pakistan later renamed the award the National Malala Peace Prize in her honor.
  6. The Taliban shot Malala in the head when she was 15 years old. Her newfound popularity and voice against the Taliban made Malala a high-profile target and in 2012 she was the victim of a nearly fatal assassination attempt. She was on the way home from school when a masked gunman asked for her by name and openly fired on her and her friends.
  7. She created the Malala Fund, a charity devoted to bringing equal education opportunities to girls around the world. Malala went to the United Kingdom for medical treatment directly after the shooter’s attack where she and her family settled permanently. Afterward, she established the Malala Fund with her father. Within its first year of operation, the Malala Fund raised over $7 million and opened up multiple schools in Malala’s native Pakistan.
  8. She celebrated her sixteenth birthday by giving a speech to the United Nations. Nine months after the assassination attempt, Malala spoke at invitation before world leaders and urged them to change certain policies in regard to education and women’s rights. Since then, Malala has held audience with notable political figures such as Queen Elizabeth and Former U.S. President Barack Obama and given lectures at Harvard University and the Oxford Union.
  9. July 12 has been officially designated Malala Day. After her critically acclaimed speech on her birthday at the United Nations, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, urged all young people to speak out and let the world hear their voices. In an act of support, he declared Malala’s birthday Malala Day in honor of her courage and influential activism.
  10. She was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. After sharing her story, Malala catapulted to international fame and she received an outpouring of support from around the world as her story spread. In honor of her efforts, she became the youngest ever Nobel laureate at the age of 17.
  11. Malala received the United Nation’s highest honor. In 2017 she received the title of U.N. Messenger of Peace to promote girl’s education, a two-year appointment given to activists whose work has made an impact. The U.N. selects recipients carefully based on their future goals and past work, and the recipients engage closely with the United Nations’ leaders in an effort to make a change.
  12. Oxford University accepted Malala in 2017 where she began studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. While pursuing her own studies, she currently still works with leaders and organizations around the globe on behalf of the Malala Fund and the United Nations, fighting for equal education for all.

While these 12 facts about Malala Yousafzai cannot encompass all of her achievements and work, they show that Malala’s bravery and perseverance have proven worthwhile in the face of adversity. Her goal to provide education to the world is a necessary step in ending global poverty.

“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” – Malala Yousafzai.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Flickr