Worried about raising your children on the mean streets of London, with all that knife crime, traffic, pollution and drugs? Perhaps you should, like so many other parents, consider relocating to somewhere more bucolic – like sunny Kabul, in war-torn Afghanistan.
That, at least, would seem to be the message from the singularly ill-judged comments made to Newsround by Mark Sedwill, the former British ambassador to Aghanistan and now NATO’s senior civilian representative in Kabul.
The city, he says, is now less dangerous for children than London, New York or Glasgow. The 1,795 children killed in the conflict since September 2008 – with 74 killed by bombs and suicide attacks ithis year alone – are not, he argues, located in Kabul. After all, in the 12 months to December 2009, 263 children died in traffic-related incidents on London’s streets and, in England and Wales as a whole, according to the NSPCC, 1-2 children are killed – usually by a parent or carer – every day.
But the comparison is ridiculous. Last year, a UNICEF report concluded that Afghanisan is the most dangerous place in the world for a child to be born. Its infant mortality rate – children who die before their first birthday – is, at 155 per 1,000 live births, one of the highest in the world, comparing with a rate of 4.2 per 1,000 for central London. As Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, put it:
"A staggering 850 children die in Aghanistan every day, many from easily preventable diseases such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, or because they are malnourished."
And this is without even beginning to look at the issues of drugs, sexual abuse and gender-based violence that many NGOs working with children in Afghanistan have warned of. Suddenly life for London’s children doesn’t look quite so bad.
By Cat Weiner.
Photo: Afghan children in Khost Province, by funbobseye.