In Afghanistan, Hemat* is afraid of going to school because of the many risks on the way to get there and back.

Hemat*, 10, attends a school set up by Save the Children in his village in Kabul province. Hemat loves going to school but fears the journey to and from class every day. Credit line:  Stefanie Glinski / Save the Children.

Afghan Children are Too Scared to go Outside, New Survey by Save the Children Finds

FAIRFIELD, Conn (November 19, 2019) – A staggering two-thirds of children surveyed in Afghanistan are scared of explosions, kidnappings, or other forms of extreme violence on their journeys to school, a new report by Save the Children finds. A survey[i] of 600 parents and 90 children across four provinces reveals the extent to which children are living in constant fear for their lives and lack support to help overcome their distressing experiences.

In some parts of the country, a staggering 95 percent of parents who were interviewed said their children had experienced conflict. In the capital Kabul, it was 65 percent.

Children live in fear of explosives, gun violence and the sound of attack helicopters on their way to and at school. This is also true when they go to the market, or simply while playing outside with friends. Only 30 percent of children feel safe at school, with girls feeling less safe than boys. Many of the children who were interviewed were too scared even to go outside.

 “When fighting breaks out, no place is safe in our village, but home is still better than outside. We hide in the corners of rooms,” said one 14-year-old girl from Sar-e-Pul

"My 14-year-old brother was near an attack on Darulaman [road], and after the attack, he was always scared and anxious.,” said a 16-year-old girl from Kabul, “He would stand up each time there was a sound at home, even the sound of a door closing."

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Seventy-three percent of parents said their children experienced feelings of fear and anxiety because of conflict.
  • Forty-eight percent of parents said their children experienced prolonged sadness and insomnia because of conflict.
  • Seventy percent of parents indicated that armed clashes between the Afghan army and armed opposition groups posed the greatest threat to their children’s safety.
  • A majority of parents stated that their children felt most scared on their way to school (64 percent) and to the market (55 percent).
  • Seventy percent of parents said they had no access to counseling services for their children.

Ten-year-old Hemat lives in a small village in Kabul province where he attends an informal school set up by Save the Children because there is no school in his area. He loves going to school but fears the journey to and from class every day. 

“On my way to school, I fear suicide attacks, kidnapping and [I’m afraid] that someone might kill me,” Hemat told Save the Children, “There is war in my country. People are killing children; we are not protected. And we don’t have proper schools. I am scared because there is war in our country. Lots of people got killed and there is no safe place for people.”

 “After 18 years, war has become so normalized in Afghanistan that children barely flinch when they hear a distant explosion or walk past the gruesome aftermath of a bomb blast. All this has become disturbingly routine,” said Onno van Manen, Save the Children’s Afghanistan Country Director.

“Thirty years on from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history – why are we still unable to protect innocent children from the ravages of war?”

“Our research shows that Afghan children are facing a mental health crisis of epic proportions, being surrounded by extreme violence and with hardly any support services to help them cope. Communities affected by conflict need access to professional child-focused counselling,” continued van Manen.

“Children must be protected on their way to school and schools must remain off-limits in armed conflicts. Children have a fundamental right to education and must never be forced to drop out of school simply because it’s too dangerous to attend.

 

[i] The research was undertaken over a two-week-long period in April 2019 in selected districts of Kabul, Balkh, Faryab and Sar-e-Pul provinces, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative tools. The qualitative research involved 30 interviews with key informants (6 females; 24 males) including relevant government officials at national and sub-national levels and national and international development partners. In addition, eight Focus Group Discussions – two per province – were held with children in the surveyed communities. The quantitative data was collected through a household survey, involving structured face-to-face interviews with 600 parents (50 percent female) and 90 children, 50 percent of whom were girls. The mean age for girls who participated in focus group discussions was 11 and for boys it was ten".

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