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18 years of conflict: Every child in Afghanistan has now been born into war

  Save the Children, 7th October 


KABUL—Every single child born and raised in Afghanistan has only known life in a country at war, Save the Children said today.

October 7th marks 18 years since the start of the conflict between the coalition forces and the Taliban. An estimated 20 million children[i] wake up every day in fear of gunshots or bombs and being killed or maimed in their streets, schools or homes.

  • Over 12,500 children were killed or maimed in the violence between 2015 and 2018, 274 children were recruited for combat or support roles[ii]
  • More than 3.7 million children are currently out of school, 60 percent of them girls[iii]
  • At least 700 schools are closed because of the violence in 2018[iv]
  • 3,8 million children need humanitarian assistance, 600,000 of whom are suffering with severe acute malnutrition[v]
  • Between 2014 and 2018, over 8,000 civilians fell victim to explosives such as air strikes, IEDs and mines. 84 percent of the victims of explosive remnants of war are children.
  • 280,000 people fled their homes this year, more than half of them are children[vi]


Onno van Manen, Country Director of Save the Children in Afghanistan, said:

“Imagine turning 18 having known nothing but conflict and war throughout your entire childhood and formative years. Life in Afghanistan means living in daily fear of explosions, missing school because it’s too unsafe and not knowing if your parents or siblings will make it home. Violence has been consistently high in recent months. In August alone, an average of 74 people were killed every day – a fifth of which were identified as civilians[vii].

“Our staff help children who are out of school working in the streets to help their families make ends meet. Many have been forced from their homes by the conflict and have deep mental scars after losing loved ones or because they have seen terrible things no child should witness.

“Children are remarkably resilient, but no child should consider the sound of explosions or attack helicopters normal.

“It’s time to stop this war on children. For the sake of all Afghan children and the future of Afghanistan, the warring parties must do everything in their power to stop killing and maiming children during this terrible conflict. That includes making sure schools and hospitals are safe.

In 2019, for the first time the UN says NATO and Afghan forces are killing more civilians than the Taliban and anti-regime forces. We only know this because Afghanistan is one of the few conflict zones where civilian casualties are tracked. But it’s clear this is a very worrying trend. The UK must step up and use its key role in NATO to ensure children are off limits in the war in Afghanistan as well as wherever the UK is linked to active conflict.

"As a global champion for children, the UK should push for any potential breaches of international law to be independently investigated with the aim of ensuring perpetrators are held to account.

“Every day Afghan children are beating the odds and giving everything to stay safe, get an education and rebuild their lives. The world cannot forget them. We must give them all the help we can.”


Notes to editors:

  • In 2018 alone, Save the Children reached some 600,000 children in Afghanistan directly. The services included providing primary health support, nutrition and care services to around 115,000 people, among whom were over 20,000 children who were screened on malnutrition.
  • Save the Children focusses on health and nutrition, education and child protection for the most vulnerable, giving thousands of children better access to child protection services when they fell victim of child abuse, neglect, violence or exploitation.


[i] See https://www.unfpa.org/data/AF – the population pyramid amounts to 20,668,000 0-19s in 2019. The difference in population between 18-19 years appears to be around 700,000-800,000.

[ii] https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2019/727&Lang=E&Area=UNDOC

[iii] https://www.unicef.org/afghanistan/education

[iv] https://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-eiewg-schools-closed-due-insecurity-afghanistan-january-december-2018

[v] https://m.reliefweb.int/report/2972998

[vi] https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/afg_population_movement_snapshot_20190915.pdf

[vii] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-49662640


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