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UNICEF Says Insecurity in Afghanistan Threatens Childrens' Future

A U.N. new report warns the recent upsurge of violence in Afghanistan is threatening the progress made in the welfare of women and children since the fall of the Taliban. The U.N. Children's Fund also raises concern about what it sees as slipping support for Afghanistan by the international community. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from the launch of the UNICEF Child Alert Afghanistan report in Geneva.

UNICEF says, now that the Taliban is gone, six million children are going to school. It calls this a remarkable achievement, but says it is not without risk.

Martin Bell is author of the report and UNICEF U.K. ambassador for humanitarian emergencies. He says in the first six months of this year, 44 schools were closed either because of direct attacks or intimidation of parents and children.

Despite the difficulties and the dangers, he says Afghan people are committed to giving their children an education and will, at times, go to extraordinary lengths to see this happen.

"There is one in particular, a fortified village near Herat," Bell said. "A community-based school started by the parents. It keeps going in spite of a degree of instability, in spite of the fact that teachers are not being paid, the textbooks are very few. We have a situation in Afghanistan where all the investment and the help coming from as many as 70 countries is felt right down at the classroom level."

UNICEF says a survey by the U.S. Johns Hopkins University indicates that infant mortality rates have fallen from 250 per 1,000 to 191 per 1,000.

Despite the ongoing war, it says thousands of volunteer health workers traveled throughout the country and immunized hundreds of thousands of children against polio.

UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, Catherine Mbengue, notes these and other improvements were made during time of conflict and not during a time of peace when so much more could be achieved.

While this is good news, she says Afghanistan has immense needs in every aspect of its social and economic life.

"We need to extend health infrastructure," Mbengue said. "We need to train more teachers, particularly female if we want to attract girls to school. We need to have midwives if we have to tackle the incredible high maternal mortality of Afghanistan. We need to do all this. This is not the time to forget the children of Afghanistan, the women of Afghanistan."

UNICEF says Afghanistan has many serious problems to address. It says the country is in a fragile state and needs the continued support and attention of the international community.

It says this is not the time for donor countries to turn their backs on the children and on the women and men who are trying to create a better future for them.