A new report on the situation of children in
Afghanistan emphasises the need for more dramatic measures to be taken for
those who are deprived of parental care.
The report, issued on Saturday, was a joint undertaking by the Afghan
Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the United Nations Children's
Fund (UNICEF), and attempts to give a better understanding of the
circumstances of children lacking parental care in the country.
The report makes key recommendations for improving the plight of such
"Several years of conflict in Afghanistan have deprived so many children
of parental care. It is a serious issue," Sami Hashemi, a UNICEF child
protection project officer, told IRIN in the capital Kabul on Tuesday,
noting that some 8,000 children currently lived in 36 orphanages in
Following decades of neglect of support structures, coupled with a general
decline in social services as a result of Afghanistan's isolation from the
international community during the Taliban era, many communities have
grown reliant upon orphanages to care for such children, depriving them of
individual parental care and attention.
"I have been living in the orphanage for six years. Neither my mother nor
my father are alive. It is very difficult for me because I have no one to
look after me," Fahim, a 13-year-old boy, told IRIN, explaining that his
parents had been killed during a rocket attack eight years ago.
Many child experts believe that institutional care does not benefit the
most vulnerable children and alternatives to institutions were not being
addressed by the aid community. The report also illustrated how
well-meaning efforts by some could lead to increased institutionalisation,
Hashemi pointed out that there were already a range of such institutions,
from orphanages to hostels and daycare centres which children of
beleaguered families were encouraged to attend. They provided food,
education or vocational training.
"Strategies are needed for those children who have no relatives to go to,"
the UNICEF official said, noting that consideration might be given to
enlisting local mosques to assist in finding alternative families, such as
host parents or foster families.
The report also underlined how children who had lost one or both parents
face discrimination in wider society, from other youngsters, relatives and
people in the community. If family and community-based care alternatives
were to be supported, awareness-raising measures would be needed to tackle
discrimination against children who did not have the support of parents,
UNICEF is supporting a range of measures to address the needs of children
deprived of parental care, including new training programmes for social
workers and a pilot initiative to help reintegrate up to 200 children
currently living in institutions with their families.
The UN children's agency - with government and other partners, policy
makers and direct service providers - has also begun a process of drafting
a National Plan of Action to support children at risk in the country.
Posted on 2004-08-04