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Press release

UNICEF celebrates Afghanistan's 'million girl mark'

But the world cannot afford to lose interest now Bellamy says

KABUL/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 2 October 2003 - UNICEF said today the entrance of more than 1 million girls into the Afghan school system since the fall of the Taliban is “a testament to the courage and wisdom of the Afghan people, and the generosity of the international community.”

Speaking from Almaty just days before her third visit to Afghanistan since 2001, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that she hopes to underscore progress made in Afghanistan over the past 20 months, particularly for children and women.

“To think that a million girls have returned to school, and that the parents of a million girls have encouraged them to do so is stunning,” said Bellamy. “It’s an incredible feat in a country plagued by hunger, poverty, poor health, and continuing instability.”

“But on top of that it’s now safer for a woman to give birth in Afghanistan than at any time over the previous 20 years. We have the first real investment in schools since 1975, when the last school was built. And millions of children are being regularly vaccinated against killer diseases such as measles and polio.”

[Under the Taliban, girls were forbidden from attending school, and health workers were often obstructed from reaching newborn babies and young mothers by official policies that enforced female seclusion.]

During her three-day visit Bellamy will tour the country’s largest maternity hospital, a girls’ school, an income-generation project for women, a community water point and Afghanistan’s first cold-storage facility for vaccines. The UNICEF chief will also address a seminar of religious leaders in Kabul.

She will use the opportunity to remind the international community of its commitments in areas such as education and health, and will meet with senior members of the Afghan Government to hear first hand of progress made for children and women and to listen to a list of needs that remain unmet.

“The emergence of new crises in countries such as Iraq risks diverting resources from Afghanistan at a critical time,” said Bellamy. “I hope that my visit will remind the international community of the promises it made to the women and children of Afghanistan nearly two years ago. And that given time the commitment of aid produces palpable achievements - like a million literate future mothers.”

Bellamy will visit Afghanistan from 5-7 October.

Some facts:

  • More than 4 million children are now enrolled in school 
  • 12 million children have been immunized against polio and 16 million against  measles since 2002
  • 700,000 women have been vaccinated against tetanus
  • One in five Afghan children will die before their fifth birthday
  • Nearly half of all schools are without an adequate water supply
  • An estimated 8,000 children are in need of rehabilitation after serving in fighting  forces
  • Afghanistan recorded the highest ever recorded maternal mortality ratio in the world  (2002).

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For more information contact:

Chulho Hyun, UNICEF Media, Kabul +93 (0) 702 78493
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media, Kabul +93 (0) 702 74729
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Media, New York +1 212 326 7426
Damian Personnaz, UNICEF Media, Geneva +41– 22 909–5716





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