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The U.S./U.N. Holocaust Against the Children of Afghanistan and Iraq
by Arshad Mahmood
When ever war broke out in any part of the world it affected the children the most. During the last decade, two million children worldwide have been killed as a result of war, four to five million children have been disabled, 12 million have been left homeless, more than one million orphaned or separated from their parents, and approximately ten million children have been psychologically traumatised as a result of war (UNICEF's The State of World's Children 1996).
The most affected countries regarding the killings of children due to war or its consequences are Afghanistan and Iraq. In both these countries thousands of children were killed during the war.
In Afghanistan only, where a civil war has been continuing for the past 20 years, around 300,000 to 400,000 children have died out of total population of 20 million.
In addition, the devastation has contributed to the deaths of thousands of children from hunger and disease. An American who visited Afghanistan on an official visit in September said that the recent drought has made the situation worse for children in Afghanistan along with the UN sanctions. She said that she felt very uncomfortable while having her meals in Hazarajat area of Afghanistan because of the food situation there. More than 250,000 children are reported dying every year of malnutrition alone in Afghanistan.
Every three hours or so, a child is blown up as a result of more than ten million landmines planted all over Afghanistan. One-third of Afghanistan's landmine victims are estimated to be children (UNOCHA 1999). Those children who survive a trauma of a mine incident are burden on their families and require extensive medical care, rehabilitation and most importantly, economic support throughout their lives.
More than one quarter of Afghan babies do not see their fifth birthday (UNESCO, 1997).
According to UNICEF's State of the World's Children Report, Afghanistan has the fourth worst record in under five child mortality, the infant mortality rate being 152 per 1,000 live births. More than a quarter of a million children under five die each year, many more than those caught in armed conflict or killed by mines.
War have several other worse effects on children including loss of parents and other close relatives, many left their education because of poverty, displacements, disabilities, destroyed infrastructure of education etc. Many of the street children have no shelter and are dependent on relatives for a place to stay or they shake up in abandoned houses. According to a survey conducted by the UNHCR in 1997, there are an estimated 28,000 street children in Kabul, 20 per cent of whom are girls. However with the increase in the number of displaced persons in the country, the figure has risen to more than 35,000. These children are either involved in begging or working on the streets as shoe polishers, or car washers; the purpose being to support their families.
A large number of child labourers in Peshawar are Afghans who are working to give a helping hand to their parents. Those schools extending educational facilities to refugee children are without basic necessities...
The situation is worsening day by day in Iraq as well, because of UN sanctions the number of children dying is increasing due to malnutrition and lack of medicines. The number of child labourers and child beggars is increasing rapidly. Under five mortality rate increased from 50 per 1,000 in 1990 to 125 per 1,000 in 1998.
The Health Ministry says around 500,000 children are among the 1.4 million Iraqis who died due to lack of food or health care as a result of a decade old embargo, from a total population of 22 million.
Iraq is also scrapping its free education system and four million children will now have to pay for their schooling. It would be for the first time in 30 years that Iraqis have been asked to pay for their education, the parents were asked to provide school books and equipment for their children last year. UNICEF estimates that almost one million Iraqi children failed to sign for school and another 200,000 dropped out during 1997-98 academic year alone due to UN sanctions.
Malnourished and forced to work on the streets rather going to school, most of the dropouts take to begging while the luckier ones find some job. The literacy rate has dropped to 66 per cent from an impressive 90 per cent before the embargo was slapped on Baghdad, while secondary school enrollment ratio dropped to 51 per cent for males and 32 per cent for females.
The former head of the UN Humanitarian Program for Iraq, Hons Von Sponeck, who quit in March in protest against continued sanctions says, that the young Iraqis were part of a "refrigerator generation," warning that "we will never be able to give them back what they lost all these years".
The children of both Afghanistan and Iraq are facing the grave consequences of the UN sanctions.
They are in extremely pathetic condition and the champions of "Human Rights" are very proud of their power and victory.
There is a great need of taking notice of the situation of both Afghan and Iraqi children and relaxing the sanctions where they are affecting the children directly.
The international community should make an end to the sanctions against Iraq as Iraqi economy and its defence is completely destroyed now and Iraq is no more a threat for the western powers. Humanitarian aid should be sent to both Afghanistan and Iraq to save the lives of children in both countries.
Oct. 25, 2000 The Frontier Post, Peshawar
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