UNICEF provides education, mental health support to hundreds of Takhar children

By Muhammad Qasem

A girl holds a notebook donated by UNICEF October 14 in Faizabad, Badakhshan province. [Courtesy of Afghanistan Development and Welfare Services Organisation]

A girl holds a notebook donated by UNICEF October 14 in Faizabad, Badakhshan province. [Courtesy of Afghanistan Development and Welfare Services Organisation]

TALOQAN –- With support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Afghanistan Development and Welfare Services Organisation (ADWSO) has been providing mental health care and learning opportunities for some 1,400 children in Takhar province.

Kamran Sadaat, ADWSO director in Takhar province, told Salaam Times his organisation has been implementing various UNICEF-funded projects in nine of the country's northern and northeastern provinces over the last four years.

The latest project is aimed at preventing child labour and identifying children affected by conflict and violence, said Sadaat.

Some 1,400 children, including girls, are registered for ADWSO's educational and psychological treatment programmes, so they can grow up to be successful and influential in society, he said.

A young man sits in his shop funded by UNICEF on October 23 in Taloqan, Takhar province. [Courtesy of Afghanistan Development and Welfare Services Organisation]

A young man sits in his shop funded by UNICEF on October 23 in Taloqan, Takhar province. [Courtesy of Afghanistan Development and Welfare Services Organisation]

"We have created 23 friendship centres across Takhar province. As many as 60 children attend each class, which are taught by two female instructors," he said.

The nine-month-long project was launched in March and is set to wrap up in December.

"The project covers orphans, children with disabilities and children who suffer from physical, developmental, or psychological problems. Additionally, we've designated children who have dropped out of school because of poverty, and we support them," Sadaat added.

The programme is also supporting teenagers who departed Afghanistan for Iran but were deported by Iranian authorities, he said, by setting up small businesses to help them earn an income.

"We have established shops worth 40,000 AFN ($450) for each teenager and provided them with items for sale. We hope they say no to illegal migration and will be able to economically support their families," he added.

The programme has identified more than 50,000 needy children in Takhar province, said Sadaat. With funding from UNICEF, it is planning to target those children during the next phase of the project.

Making children's dreams come true

Many participants in the UNICEF-funded project said they were unable to attend school because of conflict, a lack of proper facilities, economic hardship and migration.

Sadia Mushfiq, 10, a resident of Taloqan city who attends classes at one of the UNICEF-funded centres alongside her brother, said she lost her father in an automobile accident two years ago.

"After my father passed away, neither me nor my brother could continue to attend school. We are very happy now that we have the opportunity to learn and get support," she said.

"We are taught different school topics here. Physicians treat sick children and observe them constantly," she added.

"Conflict and violence have negatively impacted these children's brains. Early on, they were very angry, but their mental health is improving every day," said Arzu Mehrabi, 27, a teacher hired by UNICEF.

"I am happy that I am serving as an instructor in a centre established for children who were impoverished, orphaned, or affected by the war. I am proud to be their teacher," she said.

Classes are designed to create a calming and supportive environment for children who have experienced war and trauma, she said.

Impacts of the war on children's psyche

The ongoing conflict and insecurity have negative effects on children's mental health in the country and educational programmes such as the one funded by UNICEF can create positive changes, said analysts.

"Many children lost their fathers in the continued conflict," Saleh Mohammad Nasrati, a social scientist in Takhar province, told Salaam Times.

"They are encountering a great number of challenges and are exposed to dangers such as drug addiction, human trafficking, abuse and child labour."

"Each of these unfortunate consequences has made it more difficult for conflict-affected children to live the healthy life they deserve," he said.

"Conflict has deprived several generations of children of pursuing their education. Unfortunately, the trend is continuing and more children are facing the same future."

Children have always been the victims of conflicts and violence, Dr. Ziauddin Farid, a psychiatrist in Kunduz province, told Salaam Times.

"Fighting and civil war in the country have deprived many children of their basic rights such as healthy nutrition, mental health and proper education," he said.

"Unfortunately, conflict and instability have affected children's mental health. They may not be able to study and learn and enjoy their childhood happiness for years to come," he added.

There is a serious need for the implementation of comprehensive programmes by organisations tasked with safeguarding the rights of children, especially those who have been affected by the conflict, he said.

These organisations should raise public awareness in key areas such as supporting children's rights and condemning the abuse of children, he added.

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With the help of UNICEF, this agency has started a program that no government or non-government institution has ever taken. We Afghans have many orphans and poor children. Their fate is not known, and they are worried about their future. Your work can play a positive role in the lives of these children. Also, most of our young generation leaves the country due to unemployment, and this project of UNICEF gives 40,000 Afghani to each young person for their work. Our youth should make good use of this money and make their own destiny and find a piece of bread for their family. This work of UNICEF is a new initiative. This program can be a positive role in the minds of our children and teenagers, and I request the respected institution to strengthen its programs. Best regards Bilal


Greetings to all compatriots. This is very effective for the children of our country to benefit from more support and to be held in all provinces of our country in the hope of a day when all the children and teenagers of our country will continue their education and life in peace.