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Across Borders, A Commitment To The Future

ALMA-ATA, 15 March 2002 - UNICEF is racing against time to meet the deadline of providing educational materials to one million children before the new school year commences 24 March 2002 after Navroz, the Afghanistan New Year. In CARK, UNICEF's assistance to the "Back-to-School" programme in Afghanistan focuses on the procurement and dispatch of school supplies for more than 450,000 primary-school children in Mazar-e-Sharif.

For an overview and stories from the field, visit UNICEF's Afghanistan pages.

Through the warehouse and logistics sub-office in Termez (Uzbekistan), UNICEF CARK is packing education materials for children, teachers and classrooms in 10,160 kits, and receiving and dispatching 4,746 ready-made "school-in-a-box" kits to Mazar. The school-in-a-box is designed to be a self-contained kit that can be easily transported and it has enough supplies for 40 students. Other materials include 400 school recreation kits for school playgrounds, sports and games.

Through the warehouses in Tajikistan, UNICEF is delivering 540 insulated tents of 25 sq.m each, which will help add classroom space in Faizabad province. Each tent can hold 12-15 children. In collaboration with the local education authorities, UNICEF distributes the tents in priority areas where school buildings are damaged or to expand the classroom space. On a second stage of distribution, scheduled for late March, additional 200 tents will be dispatched from Tajikistan to remote districts in Faizabad and Takhar provinces.

The "Back-to-School" programme also included the children of the 12,000 Afghan families displaced on the border islands between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. As families prepare their return to Afghanistan, school activities on the islands are closing down. UNICEF, UNHCR and Save-the-Children/UK are joining efforts to ensure that these children continue their schooling immediately after return to their homes in Afghanistan.

Working in tandem, the UNICEF offices in Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyztan have completed the procurement of educational materials for northern Afghanistan. Items have also been procured in Turkey and through the UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen.

According to Philippe Heffinck, CARK Area Representative, "education is a primary, life-saving intervention in any emergency operation". The focus is on preserving a child-friendly environment that encourages children, teachers and parents to continue learning.

After a long break of almost six years in some cases, 1.5m children will return to school in March all over Afghanistan. The Afghan interim government is committed to reviving schools and bringing the children to the classroom. UNICEF is playing a major role in supporting the Back-to School campaign, which is largely being led by the government and has received immense response from the Afghan people.

For further information, please contact:

Philippe Heffinck,
Area Representative,
(+7 32 72) 503929

Gloria Fernandez,
Emergency Coordinator,
UNICEF CARK Area Office,