Afghan children ‘at greater risk than ever’, UNICEF warns
PESHAWAR: A senior official of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), after a visit to Afghanistan, said Sunday that the world "cannot abandon Afghan children now” when their needs are greater than ever before. George Laryea-Adjei, Regional Director for UNICEF South Asia, said children have paid the heaviest price in recent weeks of increased conflict and insecurity in the country. Not only have some been forced from their homes, and cut off from their schools and friends, they have also been deprived of basic healthcare that can protect them against polio, tetanus and other diseases. Afghanistan fell to the Taliban after the insurgent group seized several of its provinces and sealed its victory with the takeover of Kabul, the country’s capital on August 15. Also, a United Nations report says 5,770 Afghanistan children were killed or maimed between January 2019 and December 2020. “Now, with a security crisis, skyrocketing food prices, a severe drought, the spread of coronavirus, and another harsh winter just around the corner, children are at greater risk than ever,” he warned.  UNICEF has predicted that if the current trend continues, one million under-fives in Afghanistan will face severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. Laryea-Adjei said more than four million children, including 2.2 million girls, are out of school. Around 300,000 youngsters have been forced to flee their homes, some of whom were in bed sleeping, “and too many of them have witnessed scenes that no child should ever see”, he said. “Children and adolescents are struggling with anxieties and fears, in desperate need of mental health support,” he added. - APP