UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore's remarks at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference
NEW YORK, 24 November 2020 –This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's 2020 Afghanistan Conference, co-hosted by the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Government of Finland and the United Nations.
"On behalf of UNICEF, we thank our hosts and members of the international community who have joined us.
"This is a great opportunity to rally global support and redouble international focus on the plight of Afghans — especially children.
"In the few months since the peace negotiations began, hope has dimmed once again for a country that has suffered for nearly 40 years under a cloud of conflict.
"The fighting continues, with record levels of security incidents this year — including large-scale attacks in urban centres, targeted killings, abductions, and attacks on hospitals and schools.
"Add to this dangerous environment rising levels of poverty, natural disasters, and now COVID-19, and the trend becomes clear — and deeply concerning.
"Afghanistan is moving towards a scale of need not seen in years.
"The ranks of those requiring humanitarian assistance are swelling. Some 14 million people this year — up from 9.4 million when 2020 started. With further increases expected in 2021.
"And as always, children will suffer most of all.
"Our UNICEF teams and partners on the ground are struggling to support these young lives amidst a tangle of crises.
"A crisis of violence — with 31 per cent of all civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2020 being children. And we are seeing more and more children at risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, recruitment and child marriage and labour.
"A hunger crisis — with a doubling of the percentage of food-insecure people over the last five years, and three in every 10 children suffering from stunting caused by malnutrition.
"And an education crisis — with 3.7 million children already out of school because of the fighting being joined by 7.5 million more due to the COVID-19, pandemic. Girls, in particular, continue to be at a huge disadvantage because of discrimination, early marriage and a lack of separate hygiene facilities.
"Our UN teams on the ground are doing all that we can. And together, we are making a difference.
"And yet, for all our hard work, serious challenges remain. We urgently need your help to do more to support children through these crises — all against the backdrop of a global pandemic.
"And more than this — we need your help to build stronger, more resilient systems that can support children over the long-term.
"Help us reach more children with lifesaving community-based nutrition treatment to combat severe malnutrition and anaemia.
"Help us to eradicate polio and reach every child with vaccines. And provide community-based education services, including cash grants, so parents keep their children, boys and girls, in school.
"Help us provide safe drinking water for all, handwashing facilities and separate bathrooms for girls in all schools.
"Help us protect children through universal birth registration, reintegration services for children on the move, community efforts to end child marriage, and the clearance and removal of explosive ordnance.
"Most of all, use your influence to push parties to conflict to stop the carnage, and end grave violations against children. And help us gain unhindered access to those in need. Not only as a moral obligation but as the only pathway to any semblance of sustainable peace and development.
"We must not let Afghanistan slide from view. With your support, we can ensure that this situation gets the attention — and funding — it deserves. Thank you."
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