Statement by Ms. Mariamme Nadjaf First Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 60: Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children
At the outset, I would like to commend the Secretary General for his comprehensive report under agenda item 60, Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children. I also wish to thank Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary General for her insightful briefing yesterday and for her visit to Afghanistan.
The Government of Afghanistan is still making efforts to rebuild its country, devastated by 30 years of war which dramatically affected the lives of our children, particularly girls. The major victims of the war in Afghanistan are our children; years of conflict in our country have destroyed basic necessities of life such as adequate shelter, water and food, access to schools and healthcare, and have disrupted family relationships. It has also created social stigma and post traumatic distress.
Afghanistan is strongly committed to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. We seek to accomplish this noble goal by providing them with healthy lives and a good education, by combating violence, exploitation and abuse and by ensuring that those who commit crimes against children are prosecuted. As a country which has suffered from decades of armed-conflict, we remain committed to addressing the plight of our children by implementing our Millennium Development Goals and a World Fit for Children Action Plan, through the Afghanistan Compact and National Development Strategy (ANDS).
Since the fall of the Taliban, despite facing many challenges, the Government of Afghanistan has made substantial progress in promoting and safeguarding the rights of children. Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols in 2002, and included dispositions in domestic law aimed to protect the rights of children. Improving the lives of children and providing them with a better and brighter future stands high among our policy objectives. The establishment of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) based on the Security Council resolution 1612, following the visit Mrs. Coomaraswamy in Afghanistan in July 2008 and was supported by President Karzai. This initiative will further contribute to implementing our National Strategy on Children at Risk, which lays out specific activities to prevent violence and exploitation of children.
In the area of education, close to 6 million children have returned to schools – 35% of them are girls. However a great number of children, particularly those living in rural areas, continue to face difficulty in accessing schools. To date, approximately 1.2 million primary school age girls remain at home, due to a variety of factors including a lack of security and dire socio-economic conditions.
We call on our international partners to support the implementation of our National Strategic Plan for Education, whose objectives include the development of community-based schools that are close to home.
In the area of health, the level of infant and maternal mortality has been reduced by 85,000 and 40,000 annually. Over 5 million children were immunized against polio. As a result of the distribution of the Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), 81% of the population now receives health care, improved from only 9% in 2003. These services include assistance in the form of maternal and neonatal health, child health and immunization, public nutrition, and communicable disease control of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. However, recent estimates indicate that the rates of child and maternal mortality in Afghanistan remain among the highest in the world. Close to 600 children under the age of 5 die daily. More than 50 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications.
We count on the support of international partners to reverse this trend by continuing to help us enhance the capacity of our health centers throughout the country.
Finally Mr. Chairman,
Terrorism constitutes a major threat and drastically affects the daily lives of our people, particularly children. Children remain the prime victim of terrorism in Afghanistan. As part of their intimidation campaign, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have resorted to brutal acts and new tactics such as recruiting, training and exploiting children as combatants and sending them to operate as suicide bombers.
Barbaric Talibans are also attacking female teachers, girl students and burning schools. In the first nine months of 2008 a total of 199 school attacks have taken place resulting in 37 deaths and 33 injured.
We are deeply concerned about the large and rising number of children killed and injured by the Taliban and their attempts in reversing the gains made during the last seven years in promoting education and empowering women.
I would like to reiterate the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of children, girls as well as boys, but also take this opportunity to underline that we will only be able to ensure the protection and security of our children if we succeed in combating the physical threat posed by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. In addition, the extremist and discriminatory beliefs promoted by the Taliban pose an ideological threat to the youth in Afghanistan and the future of our nation.