In refugee camps in western Afghanistan, disease has spread like wildfire, killing hundreds of children over the past few weeks. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that as many as 100,000 children alone could die from starvation and disease if they do not receive humanitarian aid supplies quickly. Thirty-three tons of relief supplies are being trucked into Herat, but more supplies are needed. In other parts of Afghanistan, including Mazar-e Sharif and Jalalabad, women and children are at increased risk as humanitarian operations have shut down or have been postponed because of security concerns.
More promising was the return of women and girls to schools in cities where the Taliban has been defeated. In Jalalabad, some 200 girls flocked to Naswan Girls School when it reopened yesterday. Many of the girls had never been inside of a school before. The girls, however, had to be turned away when teachers discovered that the school was not equipped with adequate supplies. The school has no books, desks, paper, chalk, or writing instruments. Jalalabad is now controlled by warlords who have appointed themselves to municipal government posts. Reports from Afghans in the city suggest that these warlords were a part of the group of soldiers that seized control of the city and began restricting women’s rights, including the right to education, before the Taliban arrived. One teacher at the Naswan Girls School, still wearing her burqa, said “We don’t trust these leaders. We remember what they did before, and we don’t think the future will be good.”
To find out how you can help Afghan women by urging for more humanitarian aid, the restoration of women’s rights, and the inclusion of women in the planning process of a new Afghan government, log on to www.HelpAfghanWomen.com.