COVAX COVID-19 Vaccine Deliveries Make Schools Safer in Afghanistan
Facing the twin threat of violence and COVID-19, Afghanistan's students are still determined to learn. UNICEF is there to help.
On March 8, Afghanistan became the first country in Central Asia to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility, with UNICEF coordinating procurement and supply. The first shipment of 468,000 doses was prioritized for teachers and university professors, an indication of just how vital the nation's educators are to the embattled nation's future.
Teachers were among the first to be vaccinated when Afghanistan received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses through COVAX
"This is great news for us, because we feel safe against the virus," said Gul Chaman Sadat Mousavi, a teacher at Dasht Girls' High School in Daikundi Province, after she received her vaccination. "Schools are about to start and the children can come to classes safely and study. Today, I feel happy, comfortable and at peace."
Getting an education is an act of courage in Afghanistan, particularly for girls
Education has been under fire in Afghanistan in recent years. In the deadliest attack on civilians in Afghanistan in over a year, at least 86 people were killed and about 50 injured when three terrorist bombs exploded near the Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School in west Kabul on May 8, 2021. Most of the victims were high school girls.
"Violence in and around schools is never acceptable," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "Schools must be havens of peace where children can play, learn and socialize safely. Children must never be the target of violence."
"My back, neck, and shoulder, as well as my left knee, are all injured," the student pictured above said 10 days after the bombing (her name has been omitted to protect her privacy)." One of my ears has gone deaf since the explosion. I cannot sleep and I stay awake until midnight before I fall asleep. And even though my mother reads the holy Quran for me every night, I keep having nightmares. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies and I feel as if I’m falling from a great height."
UNICEF is working to ensure that children in Afghanistan receive a quality education
To ensure that Afghanistan's children — including girls — receive a quality education despite the threats to their health and safety, UNICEF works with partners to protect students and support the nation's fragile school system.
UNICEF remains at the forefront of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan, and will continue to reach vulnerable children and families affected by multiple shocks with urgent, lifesaving services. In 2021, those plans include connecting 600,000 children with formal and nonformal educational services, implementing safety protocols to prevent and control the spread of infection in 1,250 schools and providing training for 60,000 adults and adolescent boys and girls on gender roles, nondiscriminatory practices and positive social norms. To achieve 2021 program goals in Afghanistan, UNICEF requires US $143.6 million.
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Top photo: Ms. Palwasha Rafi Najemi, 40, principal of the Khwajah Rawash Girls High School receives the COVAX-facilitated COVID-19 vaccine at the Al-Fateh girls’ high school in Kabul, Afghanistan. © UNICEF/UN0430652/Karimi. Video by Tong Su.