The Malawian authorities must urgently overhaul the criminal justice system to protect people with albinism, who face the persistent threat of being killed for their body parts in a country where the vast majority of these horrific crimes remain unresolved and unpunished, Amnesty International said today.
Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to 148 cases, including 14 murders and seven attempted murders, according to police figures. However, Amnesty International has established that at least 21 people with albinism have been killed since 2014.
“People with albinism deserve to see justice for these vile, hateful crimes against them. That it takes so long for cases to be investigated or heard in court is a sobering indictment of the systematic failures in Malawi’s criminal justice system,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“The authorities must end impunity for these crimes immediately. As a first step, they must ensure all pending cases are dealt with without undue delay, and in line with international standards of fairness.”
In its new briefing, “End violence against people with albinism: Towards effective criminal justice for people with albinism in Malawi”, Amnesty International has found that people with albinism face long delays in getting justice.
The rate at which their cases are concluded is slow compared to other criminal investigations. Only 30 percent of the 148 reported cases against people with albinism have been concluded, according to the latest sstatistics from the Malawi Police Service and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. To date only one murder and one attempted murder cases have been successfully prosecuted.
Even the police have raised concerns with Amnesty International about delays in concluding trials due to the limited number of senior magistrates qualified to deal with cases relating to people with albinism.
In its 2016 report, Amnesty International found that attacks against people with albinism are fuelled by stereotypical beliefs that their body parts bring wealth and good luck.
Among the latest victims is Mark Masambuka, a 22-year-old man from Nakawa village, in Machinga district, southern Malawi, who disappeared on 9 March. He left his home to buy a mat in a company of a friend. His body was found buried in a shallow grave on 1 April.
On 7 December 2017, a two-year-old girl, Jean Ngwedula, went missing. Her father reportedly sold the child to a traditional doctor for ritual purposes in neighbouring Mozambique, which has been identified along with Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania as markets for the cross-border trade in body parts.
Jean’s father was later arrested on charges of murder and investigations were continuing at the time of the publication of this briefing.
Criminal justice failings
The biggest challenges facing the judiciary, prosecutors and police in Malawi include a lack of financial resources and qualified personnel to handle crimes against people with albinism, which has resulted in a backlog of cases.
Although serious cases are dealt with in magistrates’ courts, most prosecutors are police officers with no legal training.
According to a senior magistrate interviewed by Amnesty International, most police prosecutors struggle to make sound legal submissions, resulting in either acquittals or convictions on lesser charges.
Ending the cycle of killings
Amnesty International has noted as a positive step forward government’s recommitment to protect the rights of people with albinism during a commemoration of International Albinism Awareness Day on 13 June 2018 in Kasungu.
However, the organisation believes that a human rights strategy, including through human rights education and awareness raising, is needed to address the root causes of crimes against people with albinism and to stop further attacks.
The strategy should also include tracing and identifying the source of demand for body parts, as well as enlisting the cooperation of Malawi’s neighbouring countries to stamp out the cross-border trafficking of people with albinism and their body parts.
“The Malawian authorities must ensure that people with albinism no longer live in fear of organized criminal gangs who prey on their body parts. The government must overhaul the judicial system to guarantee the security and safety of people with albinism, who are some of society’s most vulnerable,” said Deprose Muchena.
Since November 2014, an unprecedented wave of killings and other human rights abuses including abductions and robberies against people with albinism has swept through Malawi. Similar attacks have occurred in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa.
People with albinism are targeted for their body parts in the belief that they contain magical powers. The current population of people with albinism in Malawi is estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000, representing a ratio of 1 in every 1,800 persons.
Published on Amnesty International on June 28, 2018
By Jessica Glenza
Luis is just 14 years old, but he already has an exhausting, dawn-till-dusk job. Last summer, he started working in tobacco fields in North Carolina.
Even though Luis is just a child – too young to buy cigarettes – it is legal for him to work here in the US.
The job pays about $7.25 per hour.
Monday through Saturday last summer, when he was not in school, he rose at 5am, dressed in long sleeves, jeans, boots, gloves, a hat and a plastic poncho, and waited for a van to drive him to fields as far as an hour away. He came home around 7pm. This is a typical schedule for laborers in this tough and dangerous job.
Workers in tobacco are vulnerable to heat sickness, in temperatures which regularly reach 32C (89F); they risk injuries from sharp objects; and, if the Trump administration has its way, children will return to using the most toxic agrochemicals.
Then there is the plant itself. Tobacco naturally contains water-soluble nicotine. This makes morning dew or overnight rain a vehicle for huge doses of nicotine. Workers are regularly exposed to six cigarettes’ worth of nicotine per day, one study found. This can result in acute nicotine poisoning, called green tobacco sickness, characterized by nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness.
“I wanted to help my mama,” said Luis. He wanted to work, he said, “to get school supplies, so she doesn’t have to waste money”. Luis is the son of a cervical cancer survivor. He started to work when his mother, a waitress, was too ill to hold a job. (The Guardian has changed the names of workers and their families in this report.)
“It’s heavy work, very hard,” said Luis’s mother. But, she said, “there’s no choice”. Children need to help buy “clothes, shoes, their own things, things they need”. She said it would be “better when they were older, but he started because I had cancer ... He was helping me as well as my older son.”
In the US, lax laws and an informal economy in which landowners are removed from hiring laborers allow teens to work growing and harvesting tobacco. This contravenes some tobacco companies’ own policies, which often prohibit children from performing hazardous work.
“There’s a lot of 14-, 15-year-olds working in the fields,” said Antonio, a 19-year-old who has done so since he was 15, a history confirmed by his mother. “They need money or they want to work,” Antonio said.
Altria, parent company of Philip Morris USA, which produces Marlboro cigarettes, said growers were “prohibited from hiring those less than 16 years of age, and may only assign hazardous duties to workers 18 and older. Both are above the legal requirements. We require parental consent for those under 18 working in tobacco farming.”
The company also said it reviewed all growers every three years. In 2017, it found only one case of child labor, in which a farmer hired two 15-year-olds.
“While the individuals were no longer employed by the grower, the contract requirements were reviewed with the grower to strengthen their understanding of the minimum age requirement,” the company said. The company also said it had hired third-party assessors to monitor labor conditions.
Miguel Coleta, director of sustainability for Philip Morris International, said the company had been “making progress in tackling complex labor issues on farms supplying to PMI and our standards exceed US in many areas”.
“Challenges remain, and PMI continues to work with Verité and the Farm Labor Practices Group on systemic issues associated with child labor, grievance mechanisms to protect workers’ rights and to achieve meaningful improvements on the ground,” said Coleta.
In 2015, PMI adopted a new leaf-buying model in the US, and it now buys through the third-party leaf buyers Alliance One International Inc and Universal Leaf North America. At the time, Human Rights Watch said the move would improve labor conditions on US farms.
The Guardian interviewed several teens, parents, and labor organizers for this story. They described a picture in which child labor was commonplace. However, many said they depended on their children’s income to make ends meet. Many of those interviewed also work in other crops, including picking cucumbers, peppers or other vegetables.
“It’s the fact that we have to do it, because there is no alternative,” said Laticia Savala, a labor organizer with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Floc) in North Carolina. Floc does not support outlawing child labor in fields, because organizers feel it would harm families who depend on children’s income. However, needing the money does not lessen the harm.
“What mom wouldn’t want their kids studying [rather] than working in the fields?” asked Savala. “You’re forced into doing something.” If labor conditions on farms “were better, probably child labor wouldn’t exist”.
The world’s largest tobacco-producing countries span the globe. They include Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Pakistan and the United States.
Together, North Carolina and Kentucky produce 70% of the 700m pounds of tobacco grown in the US each year. Only 0.04% of US farmland grows tobacco, but the United States is still an international juggernaut, the fourth-largest producer in the world.
North Carolina is just one part of a global supply chain that feeds cigarette makers with tobacco leaf. However, the value of tobacco farming is dwarfed by the value of the global tobacco products. Tobacco farming was worth $19.1bn in 2013. Once leaf is manufactured, marketed and branded, tobacco products were worth $783bn the same year.
North Carolina’s farmers employ mostly Latin American workers, who toil in fields owned by white, ageing farmers. The US does not grant agricultural workers collective bargaining rights and workers are sometimes undocumented. Workers are vulnerable to wage theft, exploitation and dangerous working conditions.
Because children work in an informal economy, there is no data on how many might work in fields in summer months, or even when they should be in school. A 2014 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) was the first in recent memory to ignite debate about child labor in tobacco in the US. The advocacy group followed up the report in 2015, and found little had fundamentally changed in fields.
“If you appear younger than 16, they’ll ask,” said 19-year-old John about children working on the fields. “But otherwise, no,” they don’t ask. Many contractors, one mother said, encouraged children to lie about their age.
Attempts have been made to regulate tobacco growing in the past. In 2012, the Obama administration attempted to make it illegal for children younger than 16 to work in tobacco. But the Department of Labor backed down after Republicans falsely argued the measure would prevent children from working on family farms.
At the state level, as recently as 2017, the Democratic Virginia delegate Alfonso Lopez tried to introduce a bill to bar child labor on tobacco farms. He was blocked by Republicans.
“If this was your kid, would you be OK with having them work in this job?” Lopez asked at the time as the bill was shelved. “Would you? I don’t think you would. So why is it OK for kids you don’t know to do this job?”
When criticism of child labor on US farms reached its peak in 2014, Philip Morris International hired a company to audit its supply chain. It found children working in hazardous conditions on 16% of the US farms it visited.
However, auditors concluded: “The root cause of many labor related issues in the US is the lack of sustainable, reliable workforce exacerbated by poor US immigration policies.”
The US has signed an international human rights convention meant to protect children “from economic exploitation” and work likely “to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development”. To that end, it encourages trading partners to meet these standards, and publishes an annual report on the “worst forms of child labor” around the world.
One country singled out in the report was Malawi, visited by the Guardian earlier this year as part of an investigation, where children “continue to engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in the harvesting of tobacco”, the most recent report by the US Bureau of International Labor Affairs said.
The tobacco industry, through its Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco Growing Foundation, agrees “in principle” children should be prohibited from hazardous work, “particularly the use of of machinery and agrochemicals by children in tobacco farming”.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, is hoping to further deregulate farm labor. Rules put into place after the 2014 HRW report are being rolled back by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which is examining whether children should again be allowed to work with dangerous pesticides on farms.
“I’ve worked in the field as well; it’s very difficult. For a young person it’s worse,” said Antonio’s mother, a 37-year-old with three sons who works behind the counter of a rural convenience store. Teens often prefer farm work to other work, she said, “because they’re given jobs despite their age”.
Dominance of American tobacco has waned in recent decades, as the tobacco supply chain has globalized. This and the deregulation of US tobacco price controls has encouraged consolidation. Where in 1978 there were 188,000 tobacco farms, today there are around 4,200.
“A lot of times they’re underage and they lie and say they’re 16 or 17, but they’re actually 13 or 14 years [old],” Antonio’s mother said. “It’s hard, but there aren’t any more options.” She said claims that child labor was not happening on tobacco farms were “a lie”.
Published on The Guardian on June 28, 2018
By Sarah Elliott
There has been growing recognition of the heightened need to respond to human trafficking in contexts of humanitarian crisis. Although there have been some positive developments, actors need to take into account pre-existing mechanisms and policies to develop more robust humanitarian protection programmes and counter-trafficking initiatives.
The grave risk posed by human trafficking in humanitarian crises has recently gained serious attention by the international community. Horrifying accounts of sexual and labour exploitation at the hands of armed groups, such as ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army, illustrate the most extreme manifestation of the problem.
A growing body of evidence has shown that humanitarian crises can exacerbate pre-existing human trafficking trends – and give rise to new ones. However, as recent research from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) argues, this is often overlooked and not incorporated into humanitarian responses. The IOM research draws on case studies from Syria, Haiti and Nepal, as well as mixed migration situations, such as those seen in East Africa and the Horn. Earlier reports, including that of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (focusing on Jordan) and the Freedom Fund (focusing on Lebanon), came to similar conclusions.
‘Trafficking in persons’ is defined in international law, and criminalized in most states. ‘Crisis’, however, is a descriptive term, often used to describe any number of emergencies, such as armed conflicts, natural disasters and large, protracted and/or mixed movements of refugees and migrants. When searching for practical responses to this issue, I argue that we first need to be clearer about the situations in which these two phenomena come together and, secondly, that we need to build on existing tools and applicable legal frameworks, to avoid overburdening humanitarian actors already faced with competing priorities. There have already been several positive developments in this regard.
The link between humanitarian crises and human trafficking
Some forms of human trafficking are a direct result of crises, such as forced armed recruitment of child soldiers, the demand for exploitative sexual services by armed groups (and even peacekeepers) or the enslavement of persecuted ethnic minorities. The links between other forms of human trafficking and crisis situations are less direct, such as the opportunistic trafficking of displaced people for the purposes of forced labour in neighbouring countries or cases where children are trafficked into the international adoption market.
It can sometimes be difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain whether a crisis situation has led to an increase in trafficking in persons, or whether the arrival of aid workers has merely shed new light on previously unreported trends. Regardless, it is essential that any counter-trafficking response outlives the humanitarian imperative.
When tailoring a robust counter-trafficking response in a crisis context that needs to be reconciled with the existing responsibilities of humanitairan humanitarian actors, it is important to not only identify the type and cause of trafficking taking place, but to identify the crisis at hand, and to take into account the country, and its applicable legal, policy and coordination frameworks.
Acts of human trafficking are often associated with other violations of international law within the crisis-affected country or the region. These include humanitarian law, international criminal law or the international principles and guidelines concerning internally displaced people. For this reason, in the absence of a functioning protection pathway for victims of trafficking, other coordination structures and policies may assist. These could be the UN cluster response in humanitarian crises, the Refugee Coordination Model in situations with refugee populations, or the work of the Platform on Disaster Displacement.
In addressing the needs of people displaced by natural disasters, actors may already be engaged in responding to forms of exploitation not labelled ‘human trafficking’ as such, including forced marriage (through the Sexual and Gender Based Violence Area of Responsibility of the Global Protection Cluster), or the recruitment of child soldiers through UNICEF’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on grave violations of children’s rights in situations of armed conflict.
One particularly underutilized protection response to trafficking in crisis is refugee status. Armed conflict may be a cause of internal displacement and refugee movements across borders. Targeting people for exploitation – such as women for forced marriage or sexual enslavement – could be part of the conflict itself as combatants aim to displace or even eliminate opposing groups. Victims of such exploitation should be granted refugee status in the countries they flee to, and protected from non-refoulement. In turn, this form of legal protection helps reduce their vulnerability to being trafficked in their new location. Where that risk remains, they should be resettled. While some host states provide permanent legal stay to victims of trafficking formally identified as such, most do not. For these reasons, ensuring that victims of trafficking also have access to asylum procedures, both in the region of an armed conflict and further afield, should be considered an integral part of the anti-trafficking response. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recently published Issue Brief No 3 from ICAT (the Inter-Agency Co-ordination Group Against Trafficking In Persons), which gives more detail on the relationship between trafficking in persons and refugee status.
Enabling victims of trafficking to safely seek international criminal redress is also an important yet overlooked counter-trafficking in crisis response, both in terms of ending impunity for trafficking committed as a war crime or crime against humanity, and in tackling the root causes of the crime itself.
Further, targeted, preventative action taken to help relieve the economic scarcity that often ensues in protracted conflict or refugee situations can help mitigate the risk of people falling into negative coping mechanisms or risky behaviour in order to survive, particularly the most vulnerable. These strategies include linking financial assistance to education and social services, and considering of the cost borne by families not sending their children to work within such assistance efforts.
Calls for more robust counter-trafficking responses in crisis situations, however, may not translate into specific actions in every case. The safety of all parties and the potential for conflicting priorities must also be considered in any such response programme. Given the chaos inherent in crises, identifying trafficked people and managing individual cases may be impossible or even unethical if the services victims need do not exist. Where government actors are known to be involved in perpetrating the crime, the safety of humanitarian actors may be jeopardized by addressing this issue head-on. In such instances, where a direct counter-trafficking response inside the crisis itself is not possible, identifying those groups most at risk, and improving their protection in general through monitoring and referral pathways, might be the only feasible counter-trafficking in crisis strategy to pursue.
Some positive steps
Despite these challenges, providing humanitarian actors with information about how human trafficking affects the groups they serve, and how it can be identified, prevented or addressed in the specific context at hand is a worthwhile investment. Much can be done through local initiatives and targeted campaigns that raise awareness about reported trafficking recruitment methods, or by linking up humanitarian actors with existing national referral mechanisms for victims of trafficking that may continue to function despite the crisis.
There have been several recent developments that suggest we are on a positive trajectory. For example, there is now growing recognition within UN bodies that responding to trafficking and exploitation can be strengthened further as part of emergency humanitarian programming.
UN Security Council Resolution 2331 (2017) recognizes that the response to trafficking in conflicts could be strengthened and calls upon all relevant UN agencies, including the UNHCR, to develop their joint capabilities and cooperate more effectively. Meanwhile, UN Security Council Resolution 2388 (2018) focuses on people displaced by armed conflict and recognizes the need to enhance the protection of any displaced person who is either a victim of trafficking or at risk of becoming one.
In terms of specific agencies’ progress on the issue, an Anti-Trafficking Task Team has been formed as part of the Global Protection Cluster – an established initiative that coordinates inter-agency approaches to protection in humanitarian responses. This task team (of which I was previously a part) will aim to develop a collective position on anti-trafficking interventions in humanitarian responses and to provide recommendations on how best to integrate them systematically into the Global Protection Cluster.
This year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime will issue guidelines on countering trafficking in persons in conflict zones. Work on developing these has benefited from an expert round table of security, humanitarian and protection actors. The recently published UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection Number 12 also give more clarity on conflict-induced refugee movements for asylum decision-makers, while the ICAT Issue Brief No 2provides recommendations to states and the international community on what kinds of thinking and action are needed to respond to trafficking in crisis situations.
It is heartening to see that human trafficking in contexts of crisis has been placed at the forefront of the international agenda as a concern that needs to be addressed through an evidence-based and cross-sectoral approach. However, the recommendations for further action have, in my view, often been shrouded in a certain lack of precision and contextual confusion. It is essential to assess with greater clarity not only the cause and type of human trafficking taking place, but the type of crisis at hand, the applicable legal frameworks at the national and international level and the link between the reported trafficking and the crisis itself. Humanitarian actors should consider which existing mechanisms could be applied and which practical interventions taken in the quest for a streamlined humanitarian response to human trafficking.
Published on The Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime on June 20, 2018
By Graça Machel
The legendary editor of the Guardian newspaper CP Scott famously declared in 1921 that “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Unfortunately, when it comes to hard evidence on how many children are locked up in prisons, detention centres, migrant and refugee camps, rehabilitation units or other institutions across the world, the facts are more scarce than sacred.
There is no single source of accurate data for these figures and estimates vary widely between 15,000 and 28,000 in Africa alone, but common sense dictates that the numbers are likely to be worse than even the highest approximations.
The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty – due to be presented to the general assembly this September – aims to address this data gap.
Whatever the numbers, no child should be kept in prison. Detention should only ever be used as a last resort, and then only for the shortest possible time.
A lack of statistics makes it hard to identify any country or region in the continent as being worse than another. The recent conference onAccess to Justice for Children in Africa, convened by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and its partners in Addis Ababa, made it clear that young people are poorly served by the justice systems meant to protect them. Despite some progress in recent years, the conference heard how groups such as children with disabilities, victims of trafficking, sexual abuse and violence, orphans, refugees and migrants are routinely discriminated against: they are denied access to justice, to adequate legal representation and to fair trial.
ACPF held the gathering to call on governments and international agencies, research institutions and experts as well as the media to highlight the injustices children are facing in judicial systems. Participants, numbering more than 200, committed themselves to giving a face and a voice to these children, and making access to justice a reality for all young people on the continent.
Their call to action pulls no punches, noting that children remain predominantly invisible in the justice systems in Africa, that traditional, customary or religious justice remains largely unregulated and renders children particularly vulnerable; and that African laws need to be brought into line with international standards and principles such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The call to action makes it clear it is our collective responsibility to ensure progress – governments, the African Union, UN agencies, civil society and non-governmental organisations, academics – no one can shirk their responsibility.
But calling for action is one thing, getting it is another. African countries must make greater strides towards improved access to justice for children. This will be marked by, among other things, law and policy reform that recognise the rights of children in the justice system, as well as growth in services that support these laws. Many African countries now have laws and standards to protect children in the justice system, some have child courts and dedicated police units, but true progress requires their systematic implementation.
Some countries such as Uganda report a significant drop in the number of children being detained. Elsewhere, trials of new technology such as “virtual courts” lessen the stress of children having to appear in person. But progress is painfully slow, and all the while another generation of children faces discrimination and ill-treatment at the hands of the systems intended to protect them.
As the call to action concludes: “There is an imperative on all of us to act now, as the future of our continent depends on ensuring justice for our children today.”
Published on The Guardian on June 18, 2018
By Marion MacGregor
A network of organizations working to stop people trafficking and migrant smuggling in Afghanistan has been launched in Kabul. The aim of the network run by the International Organization for Migration and funded by the US aid agency USAID, is to help the government to implement a 2017 law against people trafficking.
Afghanistan is a major hub for human trafficking, which affects the lives of millions of people. In January 2017, the country passed a new law against trafficking and smuggling of migrants.
At the launch of the first national referral network of NGOs and media (ANCTIP), Afghan President Abdullah said his government was committed to counter human trafficking, but “there is still much to be done.”
The main aims of ANCTIP are to educate the public about trafficking and people smuggling and to help the government to enforce the law. The network will share information and work with Afghanistan’s neighbors to stop trafficking across the borders.
The initiative is being funded by the US international development organization USAID. Mission Director Herbert Smith said, “It is important to focus on the rights and needs of victims in the fight against trafficking in persons.”
The network will also try to raise awareness about migrant smuggling, says Nasir Ahmad Haidarzai, communications officer of IOM Afghanistan. Haidarzai told InfoMigrants that migrants who rely on smugglers are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking in Afghanistan and abroad.
Most victims are children
Most Afghan trafficking victims are children exploited in carpet making and brick factories, domestic servitude, commercial sex, begging, poppy cultivation, transnational drug smuggling, and truck driving within Afghanistan.
Traffickers often prey on returnees from Iran and Pakistan and other internally displaced people, according to a 2017 US State Department Report on Trafficking.
Afghans – women, men, and children – often pay people to help them to find jobs in Iran, Pakistan, India, Europe and North America . Sometimes they are forced into labor or prostitution as a result. Afghan women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic slavery in Pakistan, Iran and India. Afghan boys and men are subjected to forced labor and debt slavery in agriculture and construction jobs, mostly in Iran, Pakistan, Greece, Turkey and the Gulf States.
Afghan boys at high risk
Boys, especially those traveling alone, are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Some Afghan boys are subjected to sex trafficking in Greece after paying high fees to be smuggled into the country.
In Iran, male Afghan migrants including registered refugees and boys as young as 12 are coerced by the government and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to fight in Syria. They are threatened with arrest and deportation to Afghanistan.
Foreigners forced into prostitution, labor
The US government cites reports of women and girls from the Philippines, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka and China being subjected to sex trafficking in Afghanistan. Some Afghan recruiters also reportedly promise high-paying jobs to lure foreign workers to Afghanistan where they are subjected to forced labor after they arrive.
Published on InfoMigrants on June 5, 2018
That represents almost half of all children aged between seven and 17, and it marks the first time that the out-of-school rate has increased, since 2002, said UNICEF.
The figures are part of the Global Initiative on Out of School Children report, released on Saturday, which indicates that persistent discrimination against girls is a major factor driving down school attendance.
Girls account for 60 per cent of those being denied an education, putting them at a particular disadvantage, and compounding gender-based discrimination, says the report. In the worse-affected provinces – including Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan – up to 85 per cent of girls are not going to school.
The study notes that displacement and child marriage are major obstacles to classroom participation, together with a basic lack of women teachers, poor facilities, and insecurity in conflict-affected areas.
“Business as usual is not an option for Afghanistan if we are to fulfil the right to education for every child,” said UNICEF Afghanistan Representative, Adele Khodr. “When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment,” she added.
But there are rays of hope in the study. It notes that dropout rates are low, with 85 per cent of boys and girls who start at the primary level, managing to stay in school to complete all grades, while the figures are even higher for those who begin at secondary school level.
“We commend the Government of Afghanistan for prioritising and declaring the year 2018 as the year of education,” said Ms. Khodr. ”Now is the time for a renewed commitment, to provide girls and boys with the relevant learning opportunities they need to progress in life and to play a positive role in society,” she added.
“Getting girls and boys into school is so much more than sitting in class,” she said, adding that it was about providing routine and stability, “which is a wise investment given the insecurity across parts of the country.”
The report calls for a continued commitment on the part of the Afghan government and civil society groups to address the country’s classroom crisis.
Published on UN News on June 2, 2018