Restoring childhoods in Afghanistan

From solar powered water systems to make-shift volleyball courts, life is getting better for children in Mazar-e-Sharif

Omid Fazel
Omid Fazel 1
UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel
25 February 2021

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan: Rangina, 7 years old, is from Mazar-e-Sharif, a northern province in Afghanistan. Her dream is to become an engineer so that she can provide water for her village. Today, there are 3.7 million children out of school in Afghanistan; half a million are in hard-to-reach areas and conflict zones where mainstream schools are not available or where children cannot access learning. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Education (MoE) and partners, UNICEF Afghanistan is expanding community-based education to reach up to 140,000 children.

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UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel

A group of children plays volleyball at Hairatan, a border town between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. In the past, these children had neither a volleyball court nor a volleyball net. But that did not stop them. Using locally sourced materials, such as wood, stones and netting, the children created their own volleyball court and now they enjoy playing with each other. This is good news for their childhoods and great news for their mental and physical development. For every child, play.

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UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel

From left: Sam Mort, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Afghanistan and Ahmadshah Azizyar, Education Specialist, UNICEF Afghanistan, play volleyball with local children. Play, in all its forms, is the right of every child.Through play, children explore, invent and create. They also develop social skills, learn to express their emotions, and gain confidence about their own capabilities.

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UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel

From left: Sheema Sen Gupta, Representative a.i., UNICEF Afghanistan, comforts a child in the Hairatan Health Center whose mother has brought him for routine immunization.

“More than two thousand health facilities across the country are equipped with cold chain facilities to keep vaccines at the right temperature -- and that’s very good news as we recommit to eradicating polio, and other vaccine-preventable diseases in Afghanistan,” Sheema said.

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UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Fazel

As part of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme, and in partnership with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and the Government of Finland, we invest in innovations and new technologies that work for local communities. Here in Khairabad village, this solar photo-voltaic (PV) panel powers a water well pump so that families can have safe and clean water piped into their homes.

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UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel

Access to safe and clean water has many benefits, especially when enabled by solar power. In addition to being more cost-effective and climate-friendly, it keeps children healthy and they have more time for school because they do not have to spend hours fetching water – a practice that brings considerable risk, especially for girls.

“Now that we have water taps and a reliable source of energy, our children spend their time learning and studying,” a grateful parent told Sheema.

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UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel

Giti, 11, is in the fifth grade at school. She lives in a camp for internally displaced people in the north of Afghanistan. Skateistan provides safe spaces where children can have fun, build their skills and make new friends.

“Now that I know how to do it, I love skateboarding,” Giti beamed. “In fact, I want to be a skateboarding instructor in the future!”

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UNICEF Afghanistan/2021/Omid Fazel

Tamana, 7, shows her classmates how to wash their hands with soap and water in a child-friendly space in Mazar-e-Sharif. These centres help to restore childhoods by providing a safe, bright and stimulating environment for children whose lives have been disrupted by conflict, natural disasters or other emergencies. Thanks to the generous support of the European Union, there are 37 child-friendly spaces in Mazar-e-Sharif.