Barkatullah is 13. He lost his right arm and leg in a mine explosion on May 2017. But that does not deter him from dreaming of a brighter future. “The policemen were among the people who rescued me and saved my life,” he says on a chilly evening in the children’s playground at the Emergency War and Trauma Hospital in Kabul. “That is what I want to do when I grow up.”
In Afghanistan, thousands of children each year are caught in the crossfire of ongoing violence. On Sunday, a suicide bomber struck in Kabul, aiming at civilians registering to vote at a school building in Kabul. Among the 57 deaths, 8 were children, according to Afghan police. There were another 100-plus wounded.
“There were bodies everywhere, some as young as 3 and 4-years-old,” says 45-year-old Mariam, waiting outside Kabul’s Emergency War and Trauma Hospital for news of her 14-year-old nephew, who was injured in the incident.
In its most annual report issued in February and covering 2017, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 10,453 civilian casualties across Afghanistan — and 3,179 of them were children. The number of child victims – casualties refers to both those who are killed and injured — represents a 9 percent drop over the previous year. UNAMA attributed the drop in figures to “actions taken by the Government of Afghanistan and Pro-Government security forces in 2017 to protect communities from harm.”
Despite this positive sign, there is still deep concern. “Whether the number of documented casualties is going up or going down shouldn’t obscure the fact that thousands of children are being injured or killed each year in the conflict in Afghanistan, a fact that is tragic and deeply unacceptable,” says Heather Barr, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Kabul.
The annual total of children who are injured or killed stands in stark contrast to figures from almost a decade ago. In 2009, the U.N. body recorded 345 children killedof the total 2,412 civilian deaths caused by conflict-related violence.
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