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UN sees advance for Afghan women, children

ISLAMABAD, Nov 24: The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) on Monday reported a big progress towards the welfare of Afghanistan’s women and children in two years after the Taliban regime’s fall , but called for continued international aid at a crucial stage of the war-ruined country’s reconstruction process.

A Unicef report issued in Islamabad applauded the role of its partners, including the country’s transitional government of President Hamid Karzai and non-governmental organizations for what it called “unprecedented progress seen in areas such as health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and protection of children’s rights”.

It particularly lauded the progress made in the field of education, which has suffered most since the Taliban movement took power in 1996 and barred women from schools and colleges.

The report quoted Unicef representative in Afghanistan Sharad Sapra as saying that in the area of health, 11 million children were immunised against measles and some six million children against polio while more than 700,000 women received life-saving tetanus vaccinations.

“The status of mothers’ health has improved with the opening of new centres of excellence in maternal health in the capital Kabul and the main eastern city of Jalalabad, the refurbishment of provincial obstetric care facilities in every province and with the training of 18 teams of obstetricians and midwives across the country,” the report said.

It said two salt iodization plants, which will greatly reduce the prevalence of mental and physical stunting and goitre, were opened this year alone while five million children had benefited from Vitamin A supplementation in the year 2002-03.

In the field of education, it quoted Sapra as saying that “huge increase” had been seen in the number of children enrolled in Afghan schools. “Demand for learning has exceeded all expectations,” he said, putting the number of children now attending classes in every community in the country at some four million – more than ever before in Afghan history

Source: Dawn