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Two displaced Afghan children voice hopes for the future after returning to school

© UNICEF Jalalabad/2007/Noor
Marzia, 13, talks by cell phone to UNICEF Radio about her life in the Campoona camp for displaced people in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, Afghanistan, 1 March 2007 ─ Despite the successful efforts of UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan, some of the country’s children and young people – especially those living in camps for the displaced – still lack access to adequate education, nutrition and health care.

Marzia and Kaihan, two 13-year-olds in Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan, have been gravely affected by war and its aftermath. Marzia’s family fled to Pakistan during the conflict with the Taliban in 2001 and returned three years ago to the Campoona displacement camp in northeast Jalalabad. Kaihan’s family also lost their home in the war and ended up in the camp. 

Both children spoke about their experiences with UNICEF Radio recently via cell phone.

Optimistic about her future

Marzia’s father, a driver, was injured by a mine during the war and is now disabled. “Before the war my father was strong and able to support the family with his work,” she says. “To survive since then, I have had to work, collecting rubbish, which my younger brother sells on the street.” 

She missed several years of school but recently returned with the assistance of a UNICEF-supported programme called Youth Committee. The group, operating in the Campoona camp, helped her find a school and catch up with her studies. She is now in sixth grade.

School isn’t Marzia’s only concern, however. “I’m also worried because we don’t have access to hospitals or doctors,” she notes. But she adds that she is optimistic about her future: “I hope things will improve and that one day I will be able to become a doctor or an engineer.”

© UNICEF Jalalabad/2007/Noor
Kaihan, 13, who lives in the Campoona camp and has recently returned to school, talks to UNICEF Radio about his family’s struggles.

Lost years of childhood

Six years ago, Kaihan and his family were forced to flee from their home and country. “In the war we faced lots of problems,” he recalls. “We lost everything and our home was looted. We didn’t have enough to eat and had to feed ourselves by taking the scraps from other people’s tables.”

Since his family’s return from Pakistan, Kaihan has helped support their household by working on vegetable farms and selling water in Jalalabad’s streets. His father has recovered from a serious illness and is now working as a street vendor.

Like Marzia, Kaihan has returned to school thanks to the Campoona camp Youth Committee. He is now in fifth grade.

“They are also helping me find vocational training, so I will have a better future,” says Kaihan. Still, his family struggles to make ends meet. “We are unable to pay for the English classes I used to take,” he laments.

Marzia and Kaihan are both very happy to be back in school, but Marzia points out that there are still some problems in her classes. “We don’t have any chairs or tables, so we have to sit on the floor,” she says.

What Marzia misses most from her peaceful life before the war is her father’s health, and she often reflects on the her lost years of childhood. “I miss the years I didn’t go to school,” she says. “They’re gone and will never come back.”




28 February 2007:
UNICEF Radio correspondent Blue Chevigny reports on the daily struggles of two teenagers, Marzia and Kaihan, living in a displaced persons camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
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