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UNICEF 'cautiously optimistic' over preserving education gains in Afghanistan

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By Euronews
Mustapha Ben Messaous, Chief of Field Operations & Emergencies, UNICEF
Mustapha Ben Messaous, Chief of Field Operations & Emergencies, UNICEF   -   Copyright  euronews   -  

UNICEF is "cautiously optimistic" over preserving the gains made in girls' education in Afghanistan, its chief of field operations in the country has told Euronews. 

It comes amid concern the swift Taliban takeover of the country will reverse progress made over the last two decades. 

A UNICEF report in 2018 claimed that "enormous progress" had been made in education in Afghanistan since the turn of the century when the Taliban were ousted from power. Enrolment, particularly that of girls, had improved dramatically, it added. 

Mustapha Ben Messaous, chief of field operations for UNICEF Afghanistan, said the NGO had signed a work plan with the Taliban last December to "open community-based schools" with "a focus on girls' education".

"The same Taliban are today in Kabul and across the country," he said. "So we are cautiously optimistic about preserving the gains that we've made in terms of education and girls' education. Very happy to report that today primary and secondary schools are open in the western province in Herat with boys and girls attending exams."

Nevertheless, in its 2018 report, UNICEF cites estimates that claim as many as 3.7 million children in Afghanistan remain out of school.

Meanwhile, UNICEF says the recent violence has seen 550,000 people "internally displaced" with half of them children. 

"We still have massive needs in terms of water provision, health provision services," said Mustapha Ben Messaous.

"And we do have a nutrition situation that is extremely alarming, where one child out of 10 is suffering from severe acute malnutrition."