UN envoy on children and armed conflict kicks off visit to Afghanistan

20 February 2010

A senior United Nations official today began a visit to Afghanistan to look into the situation of war-affected children, in particular the recruitment of child soldiers.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, is on a seven-day visit at the invitation of the Afghan Government.

Her main objective is to assess the situation of children in the country and to advocate for the protection and interventions for those impacted by war.

Ms. Coomaraswamy, who plans to meet with Government representatives, civil society groups and children, will also focus on children detained for allegedly being associated with armed groups, as well as attacks on schools and humanitarian access.

Following her last visit to Afghanistan in July 2008, she found that a surge in recruitment of child soldiers, the maiming and killing of children, child detention and a serious humanitarian situation are all posing major threats to children in the country.

“The deteriorating security situation in the country was of concern to everybody everywhere. They are very worried about the kind of insecurity and lawlessness that is now prevailing,” the official said at the time.

Among child rights violations Ms. Coomaraswamy investigated during her visit was the killing and maiming of children during military operations by Taliban and anti-government combatants, as well as by international forces in Afghanistan.

She also expressed concern over children being detained after military operations by Afghan and international forces, and that there was a lack of guidelines and operating procedures on the issue.

On the issue of child soldiers, Ms. Coomaraswamy said that she had received information from Afghan sources that there had been a surge in under-age recruitment by the Taliban and other anti-government forces in the last few months, especially from Pakistan.

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