UNICEF hails entry of 1 million Afghan girls to school

“To think that a million girls have returned to school, and that the parents of a million girls have encouraged them to do so is stunning,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said on the eve of a three-day visit to the country. “It’s an incredible feat in a country plagued by hunger, poverty, poor health, and continuing instability. “But on top of that, it’s now safer for a woman to give birth in Afghanistan than at any time over the previous 20 years,” Ms. Bellamy added. Under the Taliban, not only were girls forbidden to attend school but health workers were often obstructed from reaching newborn babies and young mothers by official policies that enforced female seclusion, UNICEF said in a new release in Kabul, the Afghan capital. “We have the first real investment in schools since 1975, when the last school was built. And millions of children are being regularly vaccinated against killer diseases such as measles and polio,” said Ms. Bellamy, who was in Almaty, Kazakhstan, prior to beginning her visit to Afghanistan, her third since 2001, on Sunday. She is due to tour the country’s largest maternity hospital, a girls’ school, an income-generation project for women, a community water point and Afghanistan’s first cold-storage facility for vaccines, and will also address a seminar of religious leaders in Kabul. The UNICEF chief will also remind the international community of its commitments to education and health. “The emergence of new crises in countries such as Iraq risks diverting resources from Afghanistan at a critical time,” she said. “I hope that my visit will remind the international community of the promises it made to the women and children of Afghanistan nearly two years ago. And that given time the commitment of aid produces palpable achievements – like a million literate future mothers.”

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