Stories from the field


Stories from the field

© UNICEF Afghanistan
A young girl hold her brother in her arms

UNICEF Afghanistan brings you stories from around the country, highlighting the experiences of women and children wherever they are.

These stories are designed to give you an insight into women and children’s lives as UNICEF strives to make sure their rights are fulfilled.

Saving new lives

When Nasiba* gave birth to her eighth child, a baby girl named Abeda, it was the first time she had delivered in a maternity ward. All her other children had been born at home.

Children are #NOTATARGET

 In recent weeks, children in the village of Mizra Walang, Sar-I-Pul Province, Northern Afghanistan have experienced things no child should ever have to.

Getting a second chance at education

At 28, Amina’s youth is betrayed only by the hardship she has faced. Taken out of school at 12, she was married by 14 and within four years had given birth to three daughters. While pregnant with her fourth, her husband, an electrician, was electrocuted and died on the job.

Busting myths and breaking taboos

“I thought that having my period meant that I was sick. At home, I was told that when I have my period, I should never touch onions,” says Mahnaz, aged 18 a student at Mehri Herawi Girls High School in Herat city, Western Afghanistan. “I was told not to eat melon or watermelon,” adds her school-friend, 16-year-old Khadija.

Birth registration: A passport to the future

When Nasiba gave birth to twin baby girls at the Malalai Hospital in Kabul, she was not discharged until she registered them. In Afghanistan, this seemingly straightforward process is in fact a vital step towards providing something most people have never had: a birth certificate.

“I don’t want to stop here”

For young uprooted Afghans, education is a need, a priority, an obsession.

More than 680,000 Afghans have crossed the border from Pakistan back into Afghanistan since the beginning of 2016. A large number of them are children. Born and raised in Pakistan, the return journey is often a reluctant one; the experience abrupt and distressing.

Education shaping lives of uprooted children

More than ten kilometres away from the nearest village in the arid Gamberi desert in eastern Afghanistan, Zainab, 10, sits on the floor of a tent surrounded by 50 girls who are learning to read and write.

A lifeline for remote communities

“Many children are orphans here. Many men live without their wives. That’s because they couldn’t reach health facilities when they gave birth or when they were sick,” says 80 year-old Mohammad Mussa, a lifelong resident of Baqalak village in the Central Highlands of Afghanistan.

Preparing children in Afghanistan for primary school

Bibi Hawa Girls’ School in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, is among the premier schools in the country. Its 6,500 students have safe water and sanitation facilities, a computer lab, a tennis club, a playground, and a reputation for high pass rates and good grades in the final Grade 12 exam. Teachers with infants can also concentrate on providing a quality education knowing that their toddlers are safely cared for in the school’s on-site crèche.

No mountain high enough to stop education reaching children

Travel north-west from Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and you will find yourself in the rugged province of Ghor. The word ‘Ghor’ means ‘mountain’ and the province lies at the end of the formidable Kush mountain range, some 2,500 metres above sea level.

New female teachers graduate in Gardez

Thirty-nine female teachers just graduated from a teacher training programme in Gardez, southeastern Afghanistan. Meet some of them on their big day!

A trailblazer for women’s health

Moving effortlessly between the maternity ward, consultation sessions, and the desk where she reviews data log books, twenty-six year old Rukhshana makes multitasking look easy. Her job is anything but.

Educating families to combat malnutrition

Qabela, 32, has been a Community Health Worker for 13 years. She has had an immense impact on the lives of the people in her community next to the northern city of Sheberghan, but for three year-old Assadullah, she has done much more than that: she helped to save his life.

Solar power bridges digital divide for students in Kandahar

 Nineteen-year-old Pashtana wants to be a doctor when she graduates from school and for that, computer literacy will be vital. However, until recently, frequent electricity cuts in Kandahar City, Afghanistan’s second largest city, meant that the computer lab at the Nazoo Ana Girls’ High School was often closed and students could only learn computer theory.

In Afghanistan, eradicating polio and leading a quiet social revolution

Afghanistan’s female polio vaccination social mobilizers are in a unique position. As more women than ever are working to eradicate one of the world’s oldest diseases, they are all the while peacefully and unintentionally leading a social revolution that is chipping away at taboos against women who work.

Solar pumps bring safe water to internally displaced community in Heart

The Kamar Kalagh settlement for internally displaced people in the western Afghan province of Herat has suffered many a hardship. But the toughest challenge may well have been the death of seven children four years ago from what seemed like mysterious causes at the time.

Beating the odds to get an education

For 13-year old Khadija, the walk to school is more challenging than for most other young girls. Partially paralyzed at birth, she makes the daily 50-minute commute by foot to attend classes at an Accelerated Learning Centre near her village in the Central Highlands of Afghanistan. Winters in these remote expanses can last up to six months.

Communities take the lead to improve sanitation

A village in the mountainous heartland of Afghanistan has become a model for ending open defecation in a country where only 12 per cent of the population have access to safe and sanitary toilets.

Where children can be children

The protracted conflict in Afghanistan has taken a toll on the country’s children, especially in southern provinces like Kandahar where continuous insecurity, stress, and the lack of social activities have impacted children’s physical and psychological well-being

Safe Play Areas offer them an oasis of peace and laughter with recreation facilities where children can be children.

Supporting uprooted children

After decades living in Pakistan, large numbers of refugees are returning to Afghanistan. An estimated 60 per cent of them are children. UNICEF is scaling up its humanitarian response.

New horizons for Afghan girls

“My parents argued a lot and wanted me to get married. That was before I came to school,” says 16-year old Hasiba who recently transferred from an Accelerated Learning Centre to a formal school in Panjshir province, about 120 kilometres northeast of the capital Kabul.

Back-to-school with a difference

Teachers at the Zarghoona Ana School had always taught their students to wash their hands before touching food or after using the toilet. But there was one problem.

Children on the move

Running from conflict, poverty and extreme weather, large numbers of Afghan youths leave the country in search of a better life abroad.

Reaching the hardest-to-reach

“We haven’t had a maternal death in the community in over two years,” says Samon, a village elder in the remote district of Yakawalang in central Afghanistan.

Water reservoir springs new life into community in northern Afghanistan

MAZAR-e-SHARIF, Afghanistan, 28 August 2016 — “I don’t need to wait in line for hours to get water anymore,” says ten-year old Nafisa. That’s no hyperbole: Life in her village has changed radically since a new water reservoir was built in the Charkint district of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan.

A young Afghan teacher’s commitment to children

“Educating children and helping to empower my community is my dream because children are our country’s future,” says Freshta, a 20-year-old teacher who recently graduated high school and now teaches 25 children in a newly established community-based school in a remote village in the northern Afghan province of Balkh.

Combatting malnutrition in the hospital and the home

 Five-months old Faeeza started struggling with malnutrition before she could even giggle or laugh.

“She was four months and 25 days old when we came to the hospital and we have been here for five days,” said Raeesa, 25, Faeeza’s mother.

Futuristic thinking, transformational change: The road to the Golden Village

“This has been an awakening experience. I realized that I have to leave my pain and sorrow behind and focus on the possibilities that the future has to offer.” These were the words of Zahra, 20, a participant of the first of four workshops that are opening the pathway to what will be known as ‘Golden Villages’ across Afghanistan.

Rebuilding lives: A second chance for young Afghan migrant

Shafiq[1] was only 13 years-old when he left for Iran. Like thousands of young Afghans in search of a better life, his family had hoped he could earn a living and help them repay their debts. Three years later, he was deported to Afghanistan, nearly US$3,000 poorer, and with a broken back he suffered in an accident at a construction site in Iran where he worked illegally.

Fleeing conflict, displaced children find solace and education in community-based schools

Kiramat, 13, can’t shake off the images in his head. Six months ago, his father and uncle were killed when fighting broke out in their home in Achin, in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The videos of their cruel deaths were posted online. Forced to flee, he has since found some hope and joy, thanks in part to a community-based school for internally displaced people in the village of Surkhdewal.

Whizzing across southern Afghanistan, mini-ambulances save lives of women and children

It’s 6:00 am when Agha Wali, a mini-ambulance driver in northern Kandahar, gets the call. He has to drive a 23-year-old pregnant woman to a health centre for an emergency antenatal checkup, about 20 km away from her village in the district of Shah Wali Kot.

School principal leads the fight against anaemia in adolescent girls

 Nearly one in three adolescent girls in Afghanistan suffers from anaemia. UNICEF and Afghanistan’s Ministries of Public Health and Education have joined forces to address the problem, but it is ordinary Afghans who are waging the battle on the frontlines, in schools and homes across the country.

Motorcycle Diaries: Teaming up for women and girls’ education in Afghanistan

It’s barely daybreak when Golsom Shojaee sets off on a motorcycle across the mountains of central Afghanistan. Her husband, Mohammad, is the designated driver. Her mission: to ensure remote community-based education centres are operating smoothly.

What’s Unfair? UNICEF Afghanistan Photo Contest

On Universal Children’s Day, UNICEF Afghanistan launched a photo contest calling on photographers across the country to submit their best shot of what they think depicts ‘what’s unfair’ for the children of Afghanistan. We received hundreds of submissions and put the finalists up for a popular vote. Here are the winners!

From the brick kiln to the classroom: Breaking the cycle of servitude and poverty

It’s pitch black outside when Sana-ul-Haq begins his work day at 3.00 am. Most of the village is still sound asleep as he gets dressed and heads over to the nearby brick kiln, where he works with his father and siblings. Sana-ul-Haq is eight years old.

Across mountains and conflict, bringing maternal and newborn care to the far reaches of Afghanistan

Afghanistan today remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a mother or a baby. For women isolated by geography or conflict, the situation is especially perilous.

Afghanistan’s female polio diplomats lead the way across the finish line 

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, 12 November 2015 – When Arianna Gul (not her real name) sets out to vaccinate children against polio, the biggest obstacle she faces is not the threat from [anti-government elements]. Sometimes, it’s the attitudes of her neighbours.

In Afghanistan, mending spirits and providing warmth

With children still traumatized and families struggling to prepare for winter, UNICEF is helping to provide psychosocial support and relief supplies following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck Afghanistan on 26 October.

Managing severe acute malnutrition and saving children’s lives in Afghanistan

Two year old Samiullha sits in his mother’s arms and giggles shyly, hiding behind the scarf of his 24-year-old mother, Marzia. He is now on his way to good health but just a month ago he was severely acutely malnourished as a result of poor nutrition and diarrhea.

Trying to cope with nature's fury

Survivors of recent floods and landslides in Afghanistan have begun to receive much-needed assistance, but for the thousands of families affected, recovery is still far away.

On the front lines of polio eradication in Afghanistan

Eradicating polio in Afghanistan – one of only three countries where the disease remains endemic – is a battle taking place every day across the country. Against the larger backdrop of instability and suffering that continues to draw the world’s focus, it is also largely invisible.


An Afghan community comes together to ensure girls' education

When the elders in Sangbast, a village in western Afghanistan close to the Iranian border, noticed that many of the local girls were not going to school, they set out to find a solution. What they came up with was simple, but it brought about a dramatic change: They built a school.




With passion and hope, health workers share a simple message: breastfeed

Community health workers in Afghanistan are helping more mothers understand how breastfeeding brings benefits to the child, the mother and the whole family.

Promised in marriage, a young girl gets her childhood back

When Farzana* was 10 years old, her father, a farmer and labourer in a small village in western Afghanistan, arranged for her to marry a man 40 years her senior. The groom, already married and the father of six children – most of them older than Farzana – paid $9,000 to Farzana’s father in return for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

In Afghanistan, reaching the hardest to reach with vaccines

It has been another painful journey back from the children’s hospital for 4-year old Akram, a trip the young boy has made several times in the past two weeks with his mother, Zarghona. Akram was diagnosed with measles, and the disease has made him feeble and tired, with a high fever and little appetite.

In Kabul, Afghanistan - 1,000 classrooms, a world of difference

Mursal Tura dreams of being a successful businesswoman. Her interest lies in the garment industry. The 21-year-old university student hopes one day to be a leading fashion entrepreneur in Afghanistan.




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