The COVID-19 lockdown in Afghanistan has had a devastating impact on children from poorer backgrounds, a survey by Save the Children revealed.
In the six months since the pandemic and lockdowns were first announced, children in more rural areas have disproportionately missed out on access to education, healthcare, food, while reporting domestic violence.
Save the Children surveyed 351 children and their guardians, as well as 129 respondents from the general public.
The NGO found that two-thirds (64%) of the children had no contact with teachers at all during lockdown.
Eight in 10 children believed they had learned little or nothing since schools closed and less than one in every 20 children (4.6%) had at least one daily check-in with a teacher.
Three in every 10 (30%) children reported some violence at home during COVD-19 and one in three households in rural areas had difficulties accessing learning materials compared to one in five households in the urban areas.
The NGO reported that the pandemic has only made life harder and more dangerous for families who have lived through decades of conflict.
“COVID-19 has changed my life. I am again not able to go to school. I had gotten a chance to go to school for the first time and then COVID-19 changed everything,” said Meena, an 11-year-old girl in Nangarhar.
“There is no proper food and medicine to survive. Since the outbreak, we haven’t had three meals in a day because my father can’t make enough money to provide us with enough food. Whenever we get sick we can’t visit doctors due to poverty.”
The organization said that education had already suffered greatly in Afghanistan due to conflict and while some progress has been made in recent years, many challenges remain.
Their report stated that before COVID-19, 3.7 million children in Afghanistan were already out-of-school and when schools closed due to the pandemic, nearly 10 million more lost access to education.
Christopher Nyamandi, Save the Children’s Afghanistan Country Director, said, “To protect an entire generation of children from losing out on a healthy and stable future, the world needs to urgently step up with support for Afghanistan. Without education, Afghan children will be denied the opportunity to help rebuild their country.”
Save the Children’s research also found that across six Afghan provinces, just 28.6% of children can access distance learning programs through TV, 13.8% through radio programming, and 0.2% through the internet.
Girls have been more heavily impacted than boys by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 3.7 million children that were already out-of-school, 60% are girls.