UN Report Says Afghanistan Schools Face Continuous Threats

(Photo: Public Domain Images, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Public Domain Images, Creative Commons)

A new report from the United Nations suggests that hospitals and schools in Afghanistan continue to be under threat.

Produced as a joint effort by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UNICEF, the report takes a closer look at how conflict-related violence, threats, and intimidation have inflicted harm upon health and education personnel, caused healthcare availability to drop, and has limited children's access to health and education services.

The report, "Education and Healthcare at Risk – Key trends and incidents affecting children's access to healthcare and education in Afghanistan," found 132 conflict-related incidents affecting either education or education-related personnel in 2015. In total, this represents an 86% increase when compared to 2014 and a 110% increase compared to 2013.

In terms of healthcare, there were 125 incidents in 2015, which is a 111% increase from 2014 and a 279% increase from 2013.

Nicholas Haysom, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan, said, "It is simply unacceptable for teachers, doctors and nurses to be subjected to violence or threats, and for schools and medical facilities to be misused or attacked. All parties must take measures to protect education and health services in Afghanistan."

Although the number of incidents is continuously increasing, the report found the number of direct attacks is going down. In 2015 there were 29 direct attacks on schools and 10 on health care facilities, a decrease from 29 and 34, respectively, in 2014. The report found the majority of incidents that took place in 2015 to be threats and intimidation, writes Rebecca Kheel for The Hill.

Despite this, 63 health personnel were either killed or injured in 2015. Most of that count was the result of a US bombing of a Kunduz hospital in October that had been operated by Doctors Without Borders. In all, 25 personnel were killed or injured in 2014.

The report also found 26 education personnel had been injured or killed in 2015, which is a decrease from 2014 when the number reached 37 personnel.

In all, over 369 schools were either partially or completely shut down in 2015. These closures affected at least 139,048 students.

Just in Nangarhar province, where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has emerged, 11 medical clinics and 68 schools have been shut down.

The report found girls to be especially affected by the school threats. The authors used the example of the events of Jan. 29, 2015, when insurgents detonated an explosive device at a girls' school. While no civilians were harmed, it affected the entire community.

In discussing another incident, the authors wrote that the attackers left a warning letter referring to girls' schools as "brothels," adding that girls should no longer be sent to school unless they wanted to "face the same fate as the army public school in Peshawar, Pakistan," which is in reference to a 2014 Taliban attack that left 141 people dead.

As a result of the threats to girls' education, a total of 213 schools in Afghanistan were shut down.

"Conflict-related violence not only puts Afghan children at risk of harm, but also limits their fundamental rights to education and healthcare," said Danielle Bell, human rights director for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. "Efforts must be redoubled to enable children — particularly girls — free and safe access to medical services and education."

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