Kabul not that dangerous for kids: Nato envoy

Children safer in Afghan city than London, New York or Glasgow

 Afghan children play in front of a school in Kabul on Monday. Nato’s top civilian envoy to Afghanistan has said that in cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many Western children would experience. REUTERSMark Sedwill made the comment to the BBC’s CBBC Newsround, a daily current events show aimed at children, then clarified it in a statement issued by his office on Monday.

Sedwill, who is the former British ambassador to Afghanistan, said he was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan. He pointed out that half of all insurgent violence takes place in just 10 of the country’s more than 300 districts, where he acknowledged “children too often are the victims of bombings and other dangers.”

“But in cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many Western children would experience,” Sedwill said in the clarification. He said more Afghan children are at risk from poverty, “absence of clean water, open sewers, malnutrition, disease” than from the insurgency.

The BBC programme focussed on young people in war zones and quoted several young people living in Kabul who said they felt unsafe on the streets because of the risk of bombings. Manija, an 11-year-old girl who goes by only one name, said, “When there are explosions I get sad because people are dying. But the next day, when they are living a normal life and celebrating, I get happy.”

Speaking on the programme, Sedwill noted that in recent months there have been few bombings in the city.

“The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York or Glasgow or many other cities,” Sedwill said. “Most children can go about their lives in safety. It’s a very family-oriented society. So it is a little bit like a city of villages.”

The number of Afghan civilians killed or injured in the war across Afghanistan soared 31 per cent in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2009, according to a report by the United Nations. Children made up a rising proportion of the victims, with child casualties rising 55 per cent.

The report said Taliban attacks were responsible for most of the civilian casualties, while deaths and injuries caused by Nato and Afghan government forces dropped 30 per cent.

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