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Afghan children must get priority attention in recovery effort, UNICEF chief says

Afghan children must get priority attention in recovery effort, UNICEF chief says

Afghan children
The reconstruction of Afghanistan will only succeed if proper attention is given to the needs of the country's children, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today in Islamabad.

"For Afghanistan to really recover and thrive as a society, children must be an immediate priority," Carol Bellamy told a press briefing. "Children and women."

Because children were the country's future, she said, "providing them with a quality basic education, good health care, and a chance to grow to adulthood in peace and dignity is essential to ensuring Afghanistan's stability and health as a nation."

Noting that women generally play the most important role in children's lives, Ms. Bellamy stressed that by ensuring women's health, women's opportunity and women's dignity, "we are enabling them to take better care of the children around them."

The UNICEF Executive Director, who will travel to Afghanistan in the days ahead to witness the plight of Afghan children firsthand, underscored the importance of education in the recovery effort. "Education for both girls and boys will be a major part of UNICEF's work in Afghanistan over the next several months," she said.

Meanwhile in Kabul today, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Mark Malloch Brown, warned that without a long-term rebuilding commitment by the international community, Afghanistan would remain a potential haven for terrorists.

On the price of reconstruction, Mr. Malloch Brown - who has been named by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to lead the early recovery effort - said that while it was too soon to provide accurate figures on the cost, he hoped to have a "global number" to present to donors meeting in Japan at the end of January. He stressed the need to "lock the donors into a multi-year plan now while the political will is at its highest point."

In another development, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today reported that over the past few days the number of Afghans fleeing the border town of Spin Boldak had nearly tripled, with more than 1,100 Afghans arriving in one UNHCR-run site inside Pakistan.

The new arrivals say that the situation across the border is increasingly uncertain, and that they fear attacks and a breakdown in law and order in the region between Kandahar and Spin Boldak, UNHCR said.