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UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Frafjord Johnson visits Afghanistan

© UNICEF Afghanistan/2008/Beard
Hilde Johnson talks to the students at the Tajrubawai high school for girls.

By Roshan Khadivi

KABUL, Afghanistan, 25 November 2008 – UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Frafjord Johnson visited Afghanistan this week where she met with various government ministers to discuss UNICEF programmes in the country.

Ms. Johnson also met with key UNICEF partners and held discussions with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and Afghan Red Crescent Society on expanding partnership in the field of child rights protection.

“After the fall of the Taliban, people were under the assumption that Afghanistan was venturing into the post-conflict phase and that some of the aspects that were hitting children hardest would go down," Ms. Johnson said. "But I think there is a reality check that has kicked in amongst all players that this is not that case. We need to be able to respond properly in terms of verifying the violation of children's rights in Afghanistan."

Report on children and conflict

During Ms. Johnson’s visit to Afghanistan, the ‘Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict’ was presented to the Security Council in New York.

The report,  which was prepared by a UN taskforce in Afghanistan led by UNAMA and UNICEF,  cites allegations of violence against children such as attacks against schools and health centres, sexual abuse and the recruitment of children into armed groups.

"Where children are orphaned or children are in a situation where they very poor and don't have much alternative, then it's very easy to be recruited," Ms. Johnson said, ahead of a meeting with Afghanistan's Minister of Interior when she discussed the report's findings.

A formal support system

During her visit to Afghanistan, Ms. Johnson visited UNICEF-supported projects in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif where she spoke at the Youth Contact Information Centre and a women’s literacy centre.

Ms. Johnson also met with Governor of Balkh region, Atta Mohammad Noor, where she asked for his support to ensure rapid action on behalf of the judicial system to resolve reported cases of violation against children in coordination with the Child Protection Action Network (CPAN).

CPAN is a network of governmental and non-governmental organisations working to protect and promote rights of children in Afghanistan. It was initially established with support from UNICEF in 2003 to facilitate access to services for children in urgent need of protection.

Since 2006, the Afghanistan Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MOLSAMD) has strongly promoted the expansion of CPAN to all provinces.

“We have seen progress here today, but we need to do more to reach children in more than 40 per cent of the country who cannot not be reached because of the conflict,” said Ms. Johnson.




20 November 2008:
UNICEF's Natacha Ikoli reports on the UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson's recent visit to Afghanistan.
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Kristine Peduto of the UNICEF Afghanistan Child Protection Section discusses the new Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflicts.
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