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Killed, orphaned, sold - Afghan war takes brutal toll on children

Updated : 2019-03-20 12:00:27

After fighting forced Mohammad Khan, a villager from the northern Afghanistan province of Sar-e Pul, to move his family to the more secure province of Balkh last year, they quickly fell on harder times.

Khan's wife grew gravely ill, he could not find work and struggled to feed their seven children. So in January, Khan sold their baby, just 40 days old, to a neighbour.

"I sold him for 70,000 afghanis ($929) so that my other children would not die of hunger," he said.

In a country where half the population is younger than 15, Afghanistan's 17-year war has arguably hit children the hardest. Some 927 children were killed last year, the most since records have been kept, according to a U.N. report released in February.

Aid workers say they are seeing a growing number of children orphaned or forced to work in the streets.

"I think the hope that used to exist, doesn't anymore," said Adele Khodr, the representative for UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency, in Afghanistan.

Aschiana, a charity that provides school half a day for children who beg and sell in Kabul's streets, has seen the number of Afghan children at risk rise sharply in recent years as the Taliban seized more territory across the country.

It has been forced to reduce the number of children it helps, however, as its funding from donors declined, said Engineer Mohammad Yousef, Aschiana's director.

"Children do not belong to political groups, for this reason, they are ignored in Afghanistan," he said, walking through dark hallways and classrooms where lights are turned off to save money. "They don't have power."

An Afghan girl practices a traditional dance at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan girl practices a traditional dance at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls practice a traditional dance at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls practice a traditional dance at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan girl watches while others practice a traditional dance at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan girl watches while others practice a traditional dance at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls chat to each others at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls chat to each others at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls sit on a bed at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls sit on a bed at an Afghan Child Education and Care Organization center (AFCECO) in Kabul, Afghanistan March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan boy washes a car in Kabul, Afghanistan March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan boy washes a car in Kabul, Afghanistan March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan children attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan children attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan girls attend a class at the Aschiana center in Kabul, Afghanistan March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
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