Trainers from the EHAT program teach Afghan children to identify and avoid danger from the remnants of decades of war. Eighty-six percent of civilian casualties in the country are caused by unexploded ordnance.
KABUL, Afghanistan – The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan is helping children get to school safely and with the necessary supplies to succeed.
"Afghanistan has one of the youngest populations in the world,” said General John Nicholson, Resolute Support commander, at a recent ceremony where the Afghan Ministry of Defense signed a new policy enhancing protections for children in armed conflict. "This population is the future of this country and it is our duty to protect it.”
The first challenge the children of Afghanistan face in getting to school is a deadly one. Eighty-six percent of civilian casualties in the country are caused by unexploded ordnance. Eighty-one percent of those casualties are children.
In response, coalition personnel are teaching students across the country about the threat of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices. Explosive Hazards Awareness Training (EHAT), which began in April 2017, is designed specifically to help the youngest and most susceptible citizens identify and avoid danger.
The coalition conducted five EHAT events across several provinces between August and October of this year, reaching more 3,000 students in just a three-month period.
The second challenge these children face is acquiring the necessary supplies to attend school.
"If they don't have school supplies, they actually aren't allowed to attend school," said U.S. Army Sergeant First Class David Miedaner, who supports an initiative to provide some basics for school.
"They told me the kids could not go to school unless they had backpacks of their own with supplies, so I reached back to my friends and family at home and they answered the call,” said Ray Romero, a contracting officer who volunteers with the program. "This is my third deployment and the children of Afghanistan have always been my focus on my off time.”
According to the most recent Asia Foundation survey in Afghanistan, there are about 8.7 million children in school, and 39 percent of those are girls. The numbers show a significant improvement from 2001 when there were only one million students across the entire country, mostly boys.
"The foundation of any civilization starts with the children and education,” said Miedaner. "I personally believe we are doing remarkable things out here in Afghanistan.”
"Who knows – maybe one of these children will grow up and become the president of Afghanistan," added Romero.
For more information about Resolute Support Mission’s work in support of Afghanistan’s efforts to shield children from the adverse effects of armed conflict,