Award winning war photographer Andrew Quilty travelled with Save the Children across Afghanistan last month, capturing the stories of children whose lives have been devastated by the endless conflict in the country.

The images tell the stories of loss and sadness, but also children’s resilience and determination to rebuild their lives. Children describe the trauma of losing loved ones, physical injuries from unexploded ordinance and having to flee their homes because of the fighting.

Violence and bloodshed remain an almost daily occurrence in the country, statistics released by the United Nations show that 2018 was the deadliest year for children in the last ten years, 927 young lives were lost, the highest ever recorded in a single year. [1]

More than 20,000 children have been killed or [2] injured by conflict in the last decade, and many more have had their futures snatched away by the fighting losing loved ones in airstrikes and suicide attacks. An estimated 3.7 million remain out of school[3], millions have been displaced, live in poverty and are cut off from accessing essential services including health and education.

Quilty captured the stories of children across the country. In Kabul, where suicide bombings have become a regular occurrence, 11 y/old *Sema describes the trauma of losing her father in an attack. He went to work one morning and never came home.

 

She said, “When we were told my father was not alive any more, we couldn't believe it….My youngest sister still thinks that my father is abroad, and that he's coming back one day.”

She remembers her father hugging her and bringing home sweets. Now her cousin brings them for *Sema and her siblings but she says it's not the same, “it doesn't make sense” because it's not her father. Now all they have are his prayer beads to remember him. They hang from a curtain in the front room.

 

In the north of the country in Balkh, 16 y/old *Naveed triggered a mine whilst herding sheep, losing his right leg in the blast. He’s now determined to finish his education and is enrolled in a vocational program with Save the Children.

Naveed* said, “for around a year I felt and dreamt that I still had my leg. But when I woke up and saw, there was no leg. Sometimes I’d feel with my hand to check and find it wasn't there.”

 

Save the Children Country Director Onno Van Manen said;

“Last year was the deadliest year for children in Afghanistan’s long and bloody conflict.  More than 900 children lost their lives last year, and many more have had their futures snatched away by the horrors of war. These statistics are deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable.”

“We can’t change the past for these children, but we can help rebuild their future. It’s time for all parties to come to the table to put an end to the suffering, keep children safe from attack and bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict”

A new report by Save the Children “Stop the War on Children” looks at the devastating effect of conflict on children’s lives across the globe over the last five years.

1 in 5 children around the world (18%)[4] are now living in areas impacted by conflict, that’s 420 million young lives. An increase of 30 million since 2016 and the highest level since 1990.

 

[1] https://unama.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/afghanistan_protection_of_civilians_annual_report_2018_final_24_feb_2019_0.pdf - Afghanistan Protection Of Civilians in Armed Conflict Report 2018 - UN

[2] https://unama.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/afghanistan_protection_of_civilians_annual_report_2018_final_24_feb_2019_0.pdf - Afghanistan Protection Of Civilians in Armed Conflict Report 2018 – UN

[3] https://www.unicef.org/afghanistan/education -

[4] Save the Children’s War on Children report -  https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/conflict-kills-300-babies-every-day