How U.S.-led war, crippling sanctions robbed Afghan kids of normal childhood

By Zhao Jiasong, Zou Xuemian (Xinhua) 13:23, June 02, 2023

KABUL, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Walking on the streets of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, visitors can easily spot underaged children peddling among roaring traffic or orphans in flimsy dresses curling up unattended against the wall.

Although the U.S.-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021, the venom of war continues to spread across the nation, robbing the future of the most vulnerable and forgotten victims -- the country's children.

On Monday, the government of eastern Afghanistan's Wardak Province said three children were killed and another injured in two blasts from mines left over from past wars.

Such cases have been more frequent in recent months. Afghanistan is reportedly one of the most mine-contaminated countries globally as dozens of people, primarily children, are killed and maimed every month due to blasts of unexploded ordnances left by military troops.

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, between 2009 and 2018, armed conflicts killed nearly 6,500 children and injured about 15,000 others.

Suffering from a terrible legacy of the U.S.-initiated war, thousands of Afghan families, including children, have been displaced, seeking sanctuary in jam-packed camps where they lack shelter, sanitation and access to healthcare.

At a refugee camp in Kabul, Nawed, 12, told Xinhua that he now helps support his family by selling plastic shopping bags on the street. "Prices have gone up. Flour, rice, and cooking oil have become more expensive, and poor people like us simply cannot afford it," he said.

Seven-year-old Assadullah, Nawed's friend at the camp, also sells sundries. "We live in a camp with no food, no flour, and no rice, no new clothes to wear, so I have to work on the street from morning till night," said Assadullah, whose father was killed by U.S. forces during the war.

"The lives of people in these camps are tough, especially orphans and widows. Children can earn 10 to 20 Afghanis (1 dollar equals 87 Afghanis) by working on the street daily. They can barely buy anything with such mere earnings," said Taus Khan, 39, the head of the refugee camp.

The United States has frozen more than 9 billion U.S. dollars worth of assets of the war-ravaged country's central bank, further worsening the already poverty-stricken nation.

"We are asking the United States to return all the Afghan money to Afghanistan so that children in our country can be lifted out of poverty," said Khan.

As Khan and other refugees said, the brutal sanctions have undermined Afghanistan's already fragile economy and impeded the delivery of essential services and humanitarian aid from the international community.

The U.S. forces and their allies destroyed numerous facilities across Afghanistan crucial to meeting the population's basic needs.

According to the World Health Organization, the child mortality rate in Afghanistan remains high, and many deaths could have been avoided. Lack of clean water and sanitation means children are vulnerable to infectious diseases and malnutrition.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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