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Huge logistical operation heralds start of back-to-school campaign in Afghanistan


ISLAMABAD, 18 February 2002 - Two school stationery kits every minute will start rolling off the production line today at UNICEF's classroom materials packing plant in Peshawar, northern Pakistan, marking the start of a huge logistical operation to bring education to Afghan children. The plant will repackage and distribute the kits, each serving 70 pupils and teachers, over the next six weeks as part of the organization's support for the Afghanistan Ministry of Education.

In the first phase, which aims to equip pupils and teachers with basic materials such as pens, pencils, notebooks, geometry sets and slates, the Peshawar plant will provide nearly 40,000 stationery kits. In separate supply operations, UNICEF will also provide over 10,000 Schools-in-a-Box each for up to 80 children, 2,800,000 textbooks and nearly 18,000 chalkboards. Hundreds of trucks will be used to transport the kits from the Peshawar plant to Kabul, for onward distribution to provincial centres around Afghanistan. In addition, more than 20 airlifts will support the distribution programme, including internal delivery flights and shipment of educational materials from UNICEF's Supply Centre in Copenhagen. The exercise is viewed as UNICEF's biggest logistical operation for many years.

A second phase of distribution will provide specific learning materials for different grades of classes, including an additional 5 million textbooks. A total of 6,000 metric tonnes of supplies are being provided by UNICEF.

The new school year in Afghanistan officially begins on 21 March 2002, with pupils due to return on 23 March, after the national New Year celebrations. UNICEF has committed to supporting the interim government in its effort to open up learning to all children, and educational materials will be provided to formal schools, home schools and other learning environments through regional and provincial education authorities.

UNICEF will also support social mobilization efforts by the interim authority to encourage children and teachers to come back to school next month. A wide range of communication networks will be utilized, including radio spots, street drama, community gatherings, and the printing of thousands of posters, stickers, leaflets and banners inviting children to return to education. Particular focus will be placed on encouraging girls to come to school.

UNICEF will also be supporting teachers, many of whom have been out of the classroom for up to six years, to use the new learning materials through a programme of orientation. The new materials have been designed by Afghan educators, and aim to provide competency-based learning across Afghanistan.

UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Eric Laroche said "The interim government in Afghanistan has made education one of its key priorities, and UNICEF is delighted to be able to support efforts to provide learning opportunities for children. Education is a fundamental right of all children, and UNICEF places great importance on ensuring children - in particular girls - have access to quality education. The logistics operation which has started today is just a first step in helping to build the foundations of a better future for all Afghan children."

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For further information, please contact:

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (+1-212) 326-7261
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Geneva (+41-22) 909-5509
Chulho Hyun, UNICEF-Afghanistan Country Office, Islamabad (+92-51) 2213437

UNICEF is an international non-profit organization created by the United Nations in 1946 to assist children and women recover in the wake of World War II. Its mission was later broadened to address the urgent needs of children throughout the developing world. Today UNICEF is present in more than 160 countries, helping children improve their chances of survival and grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.

UNICEF generates its entire income from the voluntary donations of caring individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.