Save the Children Canada

Save the Children Canada

December 05, 2011 12:49 ET

International Aid Successes in Jeopardy in Afghanistan If Donors Cut Funding Following Troop Withdrawal, Save the Children Warns as Leaders Gather in Bonn to Discuss Afghan Future

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 5, 2011) - A new report by the global children's charity shows that real progress for children has been made in Afghanistan, with some 2.5 million girls now in school and the number of trained health workers jumping from 2,500 to 22,000. Millions of children have also been vaccinated and protected against killer diseases. The results of these and other measures have led to the halving of child mortality since 2003 - a startling success in Afghanistan's challenging environment.

But Save the Children warns that this life-saving progress could stall if international aid spending is cut significantly, following the ISAF's planned troop withdrawal. Millions of Afghan children are dependent on life-saving health, education and protection projects funded by the international community. The children's charity is calling on leaders attending the Bonn conference not to turn their backs on Afghan children.

"This is a crucial time for Afghan children. The Canadian government has stated it is committed to helping Afghanistan as it continues to rebuild after decades of war," said Patricia Erb, President and CEO of Save the Children. "We trust Minister Baird will outline Canada's future support at the Bonn conference this week and we hope that Canada's plan will put children and families at its centre."

"The lives of many Afghan children have improved over the past decade - thanks, in part, to international aid. But there is still a huge amount to do and we can't turn our backs at this crucial moment. 265 children are dying every day in Afghanistan before reaching his or her fifth birthday, many girls are still not going to school and poverty pushes thousands of children out to work. The future can be changed for these children but the Afghan government and international community must make sure their needs are met when forces leave in 2014," said David Skinner, Country Director for Save the Children Afghanistan.

The scale of the challenges remaining for Afghan children, as well as the successes of the past decade, have been outlined in the aid agency's latest report: "Afghanistan in Transition: Putting Children at the Heart of Development".

The report shows that more than four million children are still out of school, and more than 60 percent of them are girls. For those in education, conditions are poor, with lessons carried out under trees or in tents. The report also highlights the fact that more than half of Afghan girls are married before the age of 16, and reveals that high rates of poverty have forced 37,000 children to work on the streets of Kabul.

Recognizing the need for Afghanistan to take full control of the country's affairs, the report calls for Afghan officials and ministries to be trained to oversee development programs in the country in a transparent and fair way.

"For Afghanistan to succeed, it needs trained and motivated frontline local workers who prioritize children and families in need. National and international civil society should support them and help bring them up to speed," David Skinner added.

The report makes several recommendations to ensure that gains made for children in Afghanistan are not lost as international forces withdraw:

  • Increased focus on children: Children make up more than half of the population and their needs must be met. Their education and protection is paramount. In one Save the Children study, 100 percent of boys reported that they had been physical punished or humiliated at school in some provinces. This is unacceptable and immediate steps must be taken to address this.
  • Allocate funds based on need: Funds should go to the most vulnerable Afghans. Money should not be disbursed based on military, political or strategic interests.
  • Aid should focus on basic services: Training is needed for female teachers, community-based educators and health workers. Education and health workers must be based closer to their communities. Transferring responsibility to Afghan authorities and making sure they are properly equipped will promote sustainability.

Notes to Editors

A copy of the Report: "Afghanistan in Transition: Putting Children at the Heart of Development" is available at: http://www.savethechildren.ca/document.doc?id=100

Please note on 30 November the Afghan government announced a decrease in the number of mothers and children dying in Afghanistan.

  • The number of children dying under the age of five has fallen from 1 in 5 to 1 in 10.
  • One in every 50 women in Afghanistan will now die from pregnancy related cause in her lifetime. Previous data showed the rate to be 1 in every 11 women.

Save the Children has been working in Afghanistan since 1976 and currently reaches over 3 million children with health, education & protection programs by working directly in 9 provinces and in another 10 provinces through partners.

Save the Children has become a leader in community-based development and training in Afghanistan. The children's charity has trained teachers, doctors and clinicians, which has led to improvements in healthcare and education in some of the poorest provinces in the country.

Resources

PHOTOS can be downloaded here: http://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=10162&k=7d0f53334e

B-ROLL MATERIAL (District Hospital in Balkh Province in Northern Afghanistan) can be downloaded here: https://www.yousendit.com/dl?phi_action=app/orchestrateDownload&rurl=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.yousendit.com%252Ftransfer.php%253Faction%253Dbatch_download%2526send_id%253D1305077884%2526email%253D56d878a7c3cc4f10a0c00a43f1205ac2

About Save the Children

As the world's leading independent child rights organization, Save the Children's mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. We work to create a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.

Save the Children Canada is a member of Save the Children International, a network of 29 member organizations raising funds and operating programs in 126 countries, including Canada, focusing on the issues of health and nutrition, education, HIV and AIDS, child protection, livelihoods and food security, emergency relief and child rights governance. Learn more about our work at www.savethechildren.ca.

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